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114 | Building high growth partnerships

34 min listen

Unlock the Secrets to Successful B2B Partnerships and Growth

In this episode of the Tech Marketing Podcast, host Jon Busby is joined by Ashley Eikenberry, Director of Global Alliances and Channel Marketing at ServiceNow.

With a storied career spanning high-growth companies like Sun Microsystems, NetApp, MuleSoft, and ServiceNow, Ashley shares her rich experiences and the key to forging successful partnerships in the tech industry.

Key topics covered in this episode include:

  • How to identify high-growth and valuable partnership opportunities
  • Establishing the balance between people, process, and partners
  • Why flexibility is so key to success when it comes to partner success

Tune in now, wherever you get your podcasts:

View the full transcript here

Jon Busby: Welcome again to another episode of the Tech Marketing Podcast. I'm really excited to be joined by Ashley Eikenberry. Hopefully I pronounced that correctly, Ashley. Director of Global Alliances and of Channel Marketing at ServiceNow. But you've had Probably one of the most fascinating careers in some incredible high growth organizations in the Bay Area.

You know, you were at Sun Microsystems where you started, then you moved on to, um, NetApp. Uh, which, nothing to do with appliances, it's, that's what we were debating the other night. And then of course, under probably one of the highest growth companies I know, one of the fastest acquisitions I think ever happened in tech, MuleSoft.

And now you're at ServiceNow, like, All of these companies have high growth in common. Um, so, you know, before we get started, like, where What do some of those companies have in common? Like what? How have you landed in these incredible powerhouses of the Bay Area?

Ashley Eikenberry: Sure. That's such a great question. Um, well, I would say the first thing they have in common is just amazing people.

Like, I think that's one of the things, um, for me, too, is just being kind of being fortunate enough to be, you know, as you're out talking, talking to people and looking at opportunities, trying to find places that not only you're going to have explosive growth, but are going to have people that you want to be in.

In the boat with because when when companies are growing at 30 and 40 percent, there's not a lot of business process that is, you know, available to you to figure out, you know, how to get from A to B to C. And there, you know, the pressure is high. The demand is high. And so it really matters who is on that leadership team and who is on your team.

And, you know, the people that you're going to be working with to go and achieve amazing things.

Jon Busby: That I mean, what a great, what a great way to start to start this podcast. Like I don't, where do we, where do we go from here? Like it's the, you know, you, you started, I'm going to say, hopefully not going to go too far with this, but a couple of decades ago in the Bay Area, like what's changed over that time?

Like would you say that people have changed or like what, what, what has been different?

Ashley Eikenberry: It's interesting. I think the, well, I mean, obviously the industry has gone through, you know, decades of change. Um, and the, I think what your, the, almost the work product has changed, right? I mean, like we've, you know, and it was so interesting too about marketing.

I think right now is just the divert, the explosion of marketing almost as a science, right? Where in the early days. Um, you know, it was really about, and I'm dating myself, but like, you know, you actually cared about what your data sheet looked like. You actually, you know, when you were doing a product launch, there was physical things to be printed.

Marketing people were trying to find the Kinkos at like 1159 at night that was still open so they could, they could print out the signs for the trade show. Um, but that, so like the physical nature of our job is so different. I think this transition to digital. And also really a global marketplace has really changed.

Jon Busby: You know, if

Ashley Eikenberry: you think about it, like our Like their marketing practices have changed. Our marketing capabilities have changed. Um, I think that the technologies available to a marketeer have just exploded. Like it's amazing how, I mean, some people are just, what do you do? Well, I only do search engine marketing.

Wow. Well, actually that's like a way full time job. Like, whereas like, you know, 15 years ago, you're like, what? Like, how does somebody even make a living doing that? Like, so it's, it's

Jon Busby: crazy.

Ashley Eikenberry: It's truly, I think there's been marketing in itself has gone through so many transformations,

Jon Busby: and it's a super relevant point.

You know, we were, we were speaking to some clients both on the podcast and actually in around table recently, and they were saying how, you know, a few years back, you would employ, you know, Marketeers in your team. Now they're having to employ project managers because it's become so complex. Like, I think when I started, you know, similar time, similar time frame to you, Ashley.

And we had one type of designer in the studio. Like, that was it. Like, you just designed. Now, you wouldn't, you wouldn't think about not having a UX designer and a digital designer, and maybe someone specialized to email and someone specialized to print. Like, it's become so much more complex and balancing all those plates is, is difficult.

I think we were. We were talking before the podcast around some of our career defining moments, right? So what would you say your career defining moment has been?

Ashley Eikenberry: Um, oh my gosh, such a good question. I guess there's a couple and I was thinking, shoot, I left one out. I think my first So when I was at Sun, we were going into, um, you know, I mean, gosh, you know, the, in the low end, in the server market, right?

We were just, we were introducing our first blade server platform, which was a huge thing at the time. Um, now, you know, people that is so, you know, so last year, so long ago, but, um, it was a pretty big deal. It was one of our first platform. True platform, you know, where we had different operating systems, you know, different chip sets, you know, all operating in one environment was, you know, software management stacks.

And so you just working with, uh, across the company, which again, in big organizations, it's super hard, you know, a lot of that. But it was super exciting. We launched that. We, you know, worked on that product launch in one day. We were, we launched it. We actually, we were launched it at comdex. We got on a plane.

We went to New York. We talked to the analyst and then we went, you know, I think we had and we did some, you know, video and, um, but it was crazy. And then we had customer meetings, but it was like this crazy intense couple days. That was definitely that was up there. And then, you know, we launched it. At NetApp, you know, really helping us to put together our whole go to market model, um, which is we talked about.

I really should have licensed that. That was like a really, that was not a good idea for me to just, you know, put all that together. But, um, but just helping the company figure out like, you know, not, not everything needs the same level of marketing. So being able to tier it, you know, what really deserves a big giant product launch, what really is just an announcement.

Um, and then really what is just a dot release and you know, how do we apply the right marketing investment to those things and what people, you know, what people actually need to take action on those things and, you know, what that looks like and then actually making that a really repeatable business motion so that you can scale quickly.

That was, I would say that was up there too. I

Jon Busby: mean, that for me is, is super inspiring, right? So, you know, we, we often look. Especially when you talk about innovation, you often think that you get into the occasionally I end up in this little in this dark place of innovation where you're like everything's already been done and you look at like a big company like NetApp and even at the time, like it probably wasn't as big as it is today, but you kind of expect them to have those processes in place.

You expect them to know. That they're already launching a product. And so it's really inspiring to know that you were there when they didn't have that process, when they didn't know how to go to market or launch a product. And what that, and, and the different cross discipline teams that you might need to be involved to make that happen.

So I think that just shows that like, it doesn't matter the size of company you are. Right. Right back to your, your intro point. There's an opportunity. To get involved and make a difference,

Ashley Eikenberry: right?

Jon Busby: Um, so yeah, I find that super inspiring and

Ashley Eikenberry: I would say to, to, to, you know, I mean, and this is like any company to be fair, there's always somebody that has a process, right?

I think it's less about, but that process could be like one person's idea of how it's going to work on their, you know, on an Excel spreadsheet in their share drive, right? So you will, you go is get into these, um, Discussions with like, well, it's really about how, you know, is what is the business like? How do we support the business in a scalable way?

And what does that look like? And then really using that as your starting point and and the rest, you know, the rest can follow.

Jon Busby: I mean, it's something as we look at. What's happened over the last 12 months. I'm going to try not to use a term that we're all very familiar with saying out loud, but if we look at the transformation that's happened over the last 12 months and what's going to be coming soon, like, I feel like this is a point where we need to utilize those skills again.

Um, but I'm going to bring it right back to the, to what you mentioned at the start of the podcast, like around people. How do you balance process and people like what's, what's the most important element of those two?

Ashley Eikenberry: Okay. By the way, people, it's really hard. Like people, it's hard. I would say is, is like, and sometimes it's, it's harder than process.

Right. Because I think getting the buy in, you know, when you're doing something new, like understanding what you really need, you know, what really needs to happen and how you get there. And, uh, you know, I mean, it's, there's just a lot of complex, I would say there's so much complexity. Um, In our world right now, just, you know, again, all those things we talked about, like, you know, marketing is hard.

Marketing is hard. Sales, you know, the different types of sales models we have today. Also lots, many, many, right? Where, you know, decades ago it was like, well, do you, do you buy direct or do you go through distribution and channel? That was pretty much it. And now there's like, you know, so many different routes and markets.

So I think it's, you know, the, you know, again, being, trying to figure out what is it you're, to me, it's all outcome based. What is it that you're really trying to get to? Which is. You know, at the end of the day, what is the transaction look like? Or what is, you know, how do we get? How do how are we successful and working with partners?

The way is us and our partners. It is how do we help customers be successful? So we have to start with that and then work backwards versus trying to go from here's what we would like to do, you know?

Jon Busby: I couldn't agree more. And that brings us onto the partnership piece, right? So we've talked about people, we've talked about process.

Let's bring another P in, which is partners. Like, when did you first get involved in the channel? Like, can you remember the moment, your first role there? It's

Ashley Eikenberry: so funny. Like I, I just love working with partners. It's just so interesting. And I love, um, just in, you know, like part of my DNA is I, I'm a problem solver, you know, and I, I think it's really, um, it's so challenging, right?

Like working with partners. And it's funny because it's a tight community, like people that do partner work. Like, first of all, when you, when we meet each other, we go, Oh, it's so hard. So nice to meet you. Like, good luck. How are you doing today? You know what I mean? Like, it's really at a personal level.

It's super hard. Like, you know, just in terms of like you, you know, you're focused on partners who, you know, obviously don't work with your company. Um, there's a lot of complexity. You actually have to be good at a lot of things. Like good at marketing. You have to be good at sales. You have to understand.

You know how partners make money. What they see is valuable. You have to be able to, you know, kind of translate into different audiences and what, what they care about. But the thing is, it's so great is the reward is so high. Like when you get it right, you get these amazing, I mean, you get amazing relationships that you honestly have some of my best friends, like, I've met through, you know, through work, you know, working with them as a partner, you know, and through their careers, whatever company we're at, we, we bring it back together and that's a super big gift.

And then I just think that the win, the business went around it like I think it's super good example is, you know, again, at, um, we had this at NetApp, we had this, with Cisco and it was amazing. Like the partner people we started with Cisco was like super, you know, this alliance, it wasn't start, it wasn't one of our top five and you know, it was like myself, Rob DeGroot and you know, a couple other people and you know, we just kept at it and we, you know, we had amazing executive sponsorship and they're like, you guys, this is going to be a billion dollar business in two years.

We're like, wow, this, This little partnership, like we're, and

Jon Busby: this is before like unicorns were a thing. Yeah, I mean, it was amazing. Billion dollars was, it was like a lot of money, a big deal. And

Ashley Eikenberry: we grew, we were like, we went from like 50 million or something in the first, then we doubled and we doubled and we doubled and we did it.

We had, I mean, we had, it was hilarious. We had, I mean, I just remember the day we had, um, you know, Chuck, who's now the, you know, CEO of, of Cisco and Rob Salmon on our side. And we had, you know, we were, we had this, But, you know, we made it into a billion dollar business party and we're all, we're just like, wow, well that happens.

I mean, it was just like, it's just amazing. So you just never underestimate, I think the power and the passion of, you know, again, you know, the, the partnership piece of this is so powerful and then, you know, executives go on to get promoted and, and, you know, you know, open up more capabilities, the partnership grows.

You know, the, the, the number of channel partners in that mix was absolutely, you know, critical to the success. And so we had, you know, we created our own ecosystem.

Harry Radcliffe: Yeah. And does it feel, uh, does it feel random to you or can you tell, so you mentioned that they went in your top five, do you, um,

Ashley Eikenberry: at the time,

Harry Radcliffe: at the time?

Yeah, but, but that's what I'm saying is like, how early do you tell that this is going to be a really, really valuable relationship?

Ashley Eikenberry: Um, that's super good question. I think a lot of it is the potential, right? When you look at and we, I mean, I would say it's surface now we're in the same, you know, we're in a lot of the same situation, which is a lot of it is the platform story.

And, you know, I think that's the common thread, right? It doesn't. It's just, it's the same story. It's just applied differently, right? So we have it. And now we have another, you know, really ServiceNow is the intelligent platform story, right? We're, we're servicing, you know, IT, you know, customers, we're servicing employees, we're servicing, you know, kind of the customer service element, um, all off of one platform.

So it's a huge partner opportunity. It's a huge services opportunity. Um, and it's, you know, I think it's, you know, something that's, um, just very, I think, almost, you know, flexible in terms of where, where customers can take it, where partners can take it. And so that, those ingredients, you know, looking things from a platform story, that by itself creates an ecosystem friendly.

Harry Radcliffe: I like the way that you talk about it. You, the words you use are kind of, uh, in tandem with friendships and relationships on an individual level. And similar to that, sometimes, you know, you just click with people and sometimes, you know, you, you work and work and work and those end up as beautiful friendships.

How, how analogous is that to partner relationships? Can you take. Something that you, how much work can you put in and can you take someone to the top if you put in all the effort or is it, are you better off going me and this person? We, you know, that's a vibe.

Ashley Eikenberry: Yeah. Um, okay. So such a good question. And I would say, you know, not all partnerships are equal, right?

I think knowing where to invest your time is super important and it has to be, it almost has to be teams of investments, right? Like it doesn't work when you just have one person. Like. Hey, we have to do this. We have to do this. We have to do this. It's like, okay, well, we have a lot of work to do. So like, you know, you, we were just talking about this last night, but you do tend to, I think when it really works is like, there is this thing about culture fit, like relationship chemistry and business opportunity.

And in like, Those ingredients in a mixing bowl are like the best because it's actually like it's really hard to get people to co sell together when they have totally different cultures. You can have the biggest opportunity, but you cannot have a co sell motion if you do not get people that can work together, you know, and that, that is like, that can be a killer, right?

Which is you can have the best marketing story and the best opportunity, but if you don't have a co sell relationship, that's going to work. It's like game over right

Harry Radcliffe: if that's the missing piece of let's say that we've got a partner. There's all the right boxes Apart from culture, how easy is it to import that culture?

And this is kind of what I'm interested in because I, um, I'm very invested in creating communities within partners, you know, those close relationships. How do you go about that? Because it seems like, you know, you talk about the struggles of the people working in partnerships. That's a big one of, you know, it's kind of, they've got their own self interest and stuff, but, but.

How do you make it so that it's, how do you strengthen those relationships? I guess.

Ashley Eikenberry: That's such a good point. Um, I think it's, it's harder, it's harder now in a way because of the way that we work, which is, you know, so much of it is zoom and, you know, remote. And I think that is, that has made it harder, um, to partner in some ways, right?

Because basically a lot of the, especially on the sales side, right? Like you. It is still about the people, right? And so to, you know, you want to give examples of, you know, here's how the sales teams work together to do this, or here's how we did this together. And you need to make that more tangible. Like it, it can't just be, I mean, you know, it, you know, obviously there's a written up success story or that's why I think Pete video does so well, right?

Cause video is like, Honestly, it's the current, it's the marketing currency of today. Whereas we used to have, we used to have data sheets and solution briefs. Today it's video, video is the currency, right? Video people want to, you know, hear it. They want to see it. Um, which is great. And I mean, the other part of that is like, but you still need, it's really hard to form personal relationships on zoom, you know, it's like you still need to have, I've got your back.

Let's do this together. Like, how do we align 10 minutes before the meeting? You know, like, you know, there's this element that, like, that is part of that is what makes partnering. It's like the essential ingredient, right? And how do we not? How do we still keep that?

Jon Busby: It's I mean, super listening to some of some of the words you're using it.

And I love this idea. Let's let's look at this mixing bowl. Let's keep exploring this mixing bowl because I think it's it's it's so, um, you know, People tend to look at partnerships very one way sometimes, you know, so they, they may look at it and say, you know, where's my leads? And that's the only, that's, that's their metric they use to measure it.

But everything you're saying there, it's almost like managing, you've got a much larger team to manage and all of the different, uh, techniques and methods you, similar to how you would just manage your own team. You know, it's about coaching someone along, like making sure you're giving them good feedback.

It's about how you spending time together in a room. So, you know, not only what they're trying to achieve in their professional life, but, you know, they've just had a kid or they're just or what their challenges are. And, and. Those interpersonal relationships just help build more meaningful connections.

Which I think mean that, you know, it's a true partnership. Um, you know, what, let's keep exploring that, this ingredients element for a moment. Because I'm eager to understand like what, I've been in some partnerships where it's just felt like I've been chased for, for, For business and it's that's fine.

That's just how some some relationships are gonna work The ones that I find the most valuable the ones where it's a true Like you've got we're bringing something to the table. They're bringing something to the table Yeah, there's something there's something in the middle where we can reach that reach that goal like how How'd you go about building that?

Yeah. Super interesting. Right. How would, how do you, I just, I don't even know where to start.

Ashley Eikenberry: Yeah. Um, it's so funny. So, you know, I have kids and I have two boys that I'm not a gamer myself, but they love their video games and they are just, I, I, I honestly think some of the partner stuff is like, you have to unlock different levels, right?

I mean, there is different levels of partnering and the best, the people that are really good at this. You can't be afraid to ask for things. Also, you have to ask for things that you don't think you're ever gonna get, you know, because if you don't ask, you're never gonna know. And so sometimes, like the best, you know, you go in it and I think you do have to find.

You know you have to find the right kind of partners that want to go with you I mean, I do think it is it's a go together kind of thing like

Jon Busby: hey Do you

Ashley Eikenberry: think we can get this and you work both sides of the partnership, which is I you know It's like when this happens, it's beautiful, which is like hey, don't worry I know you can't ask your boss for that, but I could do it Let me ask your boss for that.

Oh, that's a good idea. Okay, then we're gonna have a call with my boss. And then you should ask for this. Oh, that works really well. All right, who is the executive sponsor? Let's get them on the phone. And actually, let's get them. Wouldn't it be cool to announce this thing like in three? Oh, we'll never be able to do that.

Oh, let's ask for it and see what happens. Let's get on the all hands like let's so I mean, we just I would just say for sure, Bill, you know, our CEO, he always talks about dream big. I think that's That's so true with partnering, which is like you have to punch above your weight. You have to basically go ask for things you never could get and then maybe you get half of that.

That's still be awesome. So like, you know, make your goal that we want to get a quote in the earnings press release, pretty much probably not going to happen, but like if, you know, let's just go one lower, one lower, let's go one low, but just, you always, I feel like have to push the envelope. And honestly that creates excitement for the partnership.

Like, you know, it's super fun to see like the sales teams. you know, sometimes they don't understand. It's really funny. Like some, and I would say this is true at service now, which is know, when we were young and we're still growing our partner, you know, muscle, I would say. And so, but they brought some of us in who have done partnering for a long time.

And so it's so important they do that at the beginning because then you can, you build off of people that have done it before. And so there's this sense of like comfort. That this is not our first rodeo. And by the way, this is the same movie. So let's not get too excited about like, you know, we know how this is.

So, but it's, it's comforting. And then you go in, you have people in these sales roles that are maybe new to partnering. And you basically, they, they're, they're worried about the wrong thing. Right. They're like, they're, you know, it's like, look, don't worry about us being able to go, you know, run this program or put this package together.

What we need you to worry about is, you know, getting the executive leadership support on the goal or, you know, go get a sales incentive or, you know, go, go worry about your part of the value chain. We got ours, we got it. And so, you know, being able to really look at it, how do we use marketing as a strategic thing.

Lever to drive the business. That's when it gets really fun, you know, and so I think aligning It's just really like aligning against the big, you know, the big audacious Sales goal or aligning against, you know, this massive three year opportunity because partners, you know partners aren't in it for the quarter, right?

They're in it for like what are we doing over the next five years? How am I gonna double my business? Like how do I triple my services revenue? How do I lower the cost of transactions? Those are all the same things we're going to want to do forever.

Harry Radcliffe: How does that link to the, your son's being gamers?

Ashley Eikenberry: Um, so good point.

So it's unlocking different levels was my point. Like partnering is about. You, you have to always be looking at the levels ahead. Right? So it's like you, you can't get to level four unless you practice. I mean, they spend a lot of of time practicing to get level, level four. Oh yeah. And then they go online and they find the cheats.

They go look at the YouTube video, they go talk to a buddy that unlock the level four whatever. Partnering is the same way. Like the people that are super good at partnering are looking three years ahead or five years ahead. They're not trying to get to the next quarter. They're partnering for the future.

And that is the same thing. Like, so what do you have to unlock to take the partnership to the next level? What things do you need? What do you need to figure out who's done that? Go like, where did you do that before? Cool. Let's go do that over here. Let's do that with these people. So it's about like, It really is that you have to have a map.

You have to have a vision map for where you want to go, and then you have to keep unlocking the skills to get there. And sometimes the unlocking is we have to get this executive sponsor assigned to our partnership. Sometimes the unlocking is we're gonna need some more money to make this thing work, you know, or we need to, you know, we need to run this play in this region.

We have to figure out how to do that, or we don't have the right top account list. We've got to convince, So and so to release these 10 accounts to this partner, but you have to understand what that next level is to, you know, and then how to get there.

Harry Radcliffe: It's sorry. I grew up in the golden age of Xbox live.

Okay. I was heading home at 3 30 back from school. We'd go to bed at 10. Right. And the interesting thing about that was that there was obviously the social groups within school dissolved very much on Xbox live. Okay. The cool boys, the hockey boys. They would still play with the less cool boys, myself included, okay?

And the hierarchies dissolved when everyone was working towards a similar task, you know. And some of these tasks were much more laborious, because I don't know if your sons are like on Minecraft and stuff. Okay, but you know, someone's got the big ideas of I want to build this house. I'm not really that guy.

I'm down there in the mines, okay, holding down. That's a much less luxurious task. But, um, You get really appreciated for doing that, even though it's the less fun thing.

Jon Busby: Right.

Harry Radcliffe: And I don't really know where I'm going with that. I want, keep going. I want to know where this is. Just let, let's keep mining for this.

I'm just saying that I think that there's something, there is something interesting about partnerships and uh, and the way that when you're working towards a team orientated thing, that the respect goes back and forth. Let me, let me build on,

Jon Busby: yeah, let me build on that. Like, because I think you're, you're, you're thinking the same line that I am there, Harry.

Which is. And this was something I really didn't appreciate until I've been working the channel for 15 years as well, right? So I remember the first, like, someone teaching me about the typical, like, triangle model of a channel, and you've got your top tier partners, and then you've got your great unwashed or whatever, you know, your self service partners at the bottom, and how it's all, how it's structured.

But I've only learned this lesson recently, and I think this is something that probably comes back to, I'm going to probably say your, your MuleSoft and Salesforce tips, right? Like Salesforce are the ones that really have led this model, which is. Like, as a partner, you've got to understand what, like, what is your niche that you're going to get appreciated for.

Yeah. Right, so, let me give you an example, like, it's If you know, if you need to go and speak to the vendor sales people and understand like which customers have you got that don't convert, which ones churn hard and how harder than others, like where are you struggling to deliver, you know, to deliver on time.

And if you can find that niche, then those sales teams from the vendor will bring you in. And that's a true partnership. This isn't about how, you know, we're just going to, we're just selling products. This is about how do you find a gap in, in sales. in you, in the vendors that you work with, and how can you service that gap better than they can?

Yeah. Um, and that, that, once I realized that, it's just, it, it just completely flipped how I thought about partnerships in my head. I was like, I've just been thinking about this wrong. It, this isn't about sales. This is about how Value. Striving

Ashley Eikenberry: value. I totally agree.

Jon Busby: Let's flip it on its head for a second then.

Like, talking about from a partner perspective, like what tips would you, you know, I've just talked about finding a niche. Sure. So what tips would you give a partner to be more successful with, with one of these wonderful vendors that you've worked.

Ashley Eikenberry: Oh, interesting. Um, well, I do think it's knowing the value that you bring to the customers and it's about passion.

Um, and I think it's about, I mean, you know, this, uh, this one person I worked with was always about, hey, when it comes to partners, flexibility is the key to success. And I would super agree with that, which is not everybody works the same way. That's why you partner in the first place.

Jon Busby: So

Ashley Eikenberry: if you expect to work with somebody and they, you expect them to do exactly the same thing, exactly the same way, Okay.

Then you really don't understand this business because, you know, it's not going to be that way. Like it is hard, but, but you have to figure out, like, it's got to be worth it is what I would say. It, you have to make it worth it. And so it is about Worth it for the partner or worth it for Well, kind of, I was just going to say, like, for people, for people involved in the value chain.

So I would say, first of all, it has to be worth it for the customer. So the value that you bring as the partner. It has to actually be in customer value currency, right? It has to be that value is defined by the customer want,

Jon Busby: you

Ashley Eikenberry: know, and so not, you know, not in need, right? Like ultimately, but you know, does the customer want this thing and how much is it being valued and how, you know, what is the growth of that business?

Show me the value you believe you are delivering to customers. Okay. So is that there? Yes. Great. Great. Okay. Now show me, you know, show me your willingness to partner. you know, with us to go create more value on top of that. So that comes into like, you know, do you have people assigned? Are you ready to go?

Like what? How available are you? Cause you can have people that like, oh, I really want to partner with you. Awesome. And then you don't hear from for like, you know, two months go by and you're like, well, apparently they really didn't. So, you know, but that was a really nice lunch that we had. Um, so I do think it's like, Is there customer value?

Is there market opportunity, you know? And then is there a willingness to go, like go to battle, go to the mat, go get the opportunity to go drive it to, you know, the passion, the, you know, the sponsorship, the funding.

Jon Busby: Um,

Ashley Eikenberry: and honestly, sometimes it really like you could, it really, what you need, if you have the passion and you have the sponsorship, the other stuff will come.

Yeah. You know, and do less.

Jon Busby: I think, I think, I think that's, and I think that you, you've mentioned sponsorship a few times, you know, we talked about relate, uh, people, process, uh, and, uh, and partners here, but I think that sponsorship piece, I think is key, like partners want to know that they're important. Um, so what, what would you just flipping the other side of this head?

Like, where do you think many vendors are going wrong? Like, where do you think they're, uh, you know, they're, they're missing out on their partner strategy?

Ashley Eikenberry: You know, I think it's hard. It's hard to be. It's hard to partner when your business is not doing well. You know, I think it's easy. Like we're like, and then this is probably the common thread in the companies.

They've all

Jon Busby: done really, really well. It's easy

Ashley Eikenberry: to partner when you're growing at like 40 percent because everybody wants to be your buddy. Like everybody wants to be your partner. I mean, they come out of the woodwork and then it's like, you have the opposite problem. You have like, okay, I have all these people that want to come to my party.

Um, I actually just want to hang out with like four, you know, I don't have time to talk to everybody like, you know, so it's like you gotta, I think it's a different, it's a different thing, which is again, it goes back to who are the people that are gonna be able to drive the highest customer value with me and how do I invest my time with those people so that I can actually get to my 30 percent growth target, right?

So that there is a business lens for sure. But then there also are always these surprises, right? Where there's like, this is what's so cool about working with different partner types. It's like you could have a technology partner that could actually be the key to unlocking the next level.

Jon Busby: So how

Ashley Eikenberry: the partners work together is so important.

Cause like that's not a, there's no one trick pony. Like you actually need technology partners and service providers and SIs and like you need them all because customers have to be able to be successful. Yeah. So understanding that mix. And then, you know, looking at who you want to spend time with in each of those areas is, is really important.


Jon Busby: think it was Ingram Micro recently said, like last year, actually, they said, uh, uh, the common, like the amount of partners required to deliver on a customer deal is about seven, right? So like we often, we often forget that, right? It's not just having, you know, your one vendor and maybe one installation partner.

It's about having all the different people around the edges that make it successful. Um, so we're, we're, we're bringing this to a close. Like what's. What's the one tip you would, like, let's say you could give yourself a tip. Back when you started with Sun, like who, what, what would be that one piece of advice?

Harry Radcliffe: Get to Cisco early.

Ashley Eikenberry: I would say like, um, you know, it's kind of like be persistent, you know, don't, I think, don't give up. I think so much of partnering is like, look, there's a lot of hard days. Everybody in the partner community, I'm like, yes, I know. But for sure there are days where you just feel like, oh my God, is this ever going to work?

Like it's taken us months to get this deal or we still don't have that contract signed or like. You know, how are we going to be able to pull this off? Like just hang in there, right? Because again, when it works, when you finally get that win, it is awesome.

Jon Busby: And,

Ashley Eikenberry: and then it basically feeds on itself. So it's like, sometimes it just takes.

Perseverance to get to that first level, you know, or sometimes it's like level one and two could, I mean, it may be hard. The hardest part is getting

Jon Busby: through level one and

Ashley Eikenberry: two, but if you can make it, then, you know, the next couple levels are like fricking awesome. It's, it's amazing, but you have to do the work, right?

So just like you gotta have the basics, you know, you gotta, you gotta know the value. You gotta be able to articulate your story. You have to have sponsorships. You have to have the basic things in place and but then then just stick with it.

Jon Busby: It's like a flywheel, isn't it? Like you've got it. You've got to get up to speed first before it gets rolling.

And I think the especially at the moment there is a Almost a reliance where many vendors are switching to partners for their growth without thinking, I would say, without thinking strategically and how they're going to fit in in the long term. And so I think it's, you know, I would agree with you. Like we, we see channel your channel partner.

strategy change kind of on a whim based on kind of short term quarter results. And right back to what you said a few moments ago, like that's not the way partners are thinking. They're not listed on wall street most of the time. Some of them might be. Um, but not everyone is listed at listed on wall street where they need to report on things quarterly.

They're looking at how they're going to grow this business, um, over the next three years and you need to align yourself with that. So yeah, completely agree. Ashley. It's been a pleasure to have you on the podcast today. And, um, yeah, we hope to have you back again soon.

Ashley Eikenberry: Absolutely, thank you.

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