Wind River is a California-based software company. It provides mission-critical software, for example, for NASA, including for the Mars Rover Exploration programme. We caught up with global CMO Michael Gale to talk about Wind River’s approach to partner marketing.

Michael, tell us how Wind River organises partner marketing.

Wind River is one of the older technology brands, and around 25–30% of business is indirect. Average order value for new business is typically six figures, and with established customers, it’s typically multimillion-dollar deals. This isn’t traditional large-scale demand generation, it’s very much an account-based marketing model. 

How do partners participate in joint activities for lead generation?

We have two primary partner types, Integration Partners and Carriers, and we offer different activities across the two. However, the focus of these activities is generally joint activities with partners, rather than through-partner demand generation. We anticipate that by 2022, around 50% of our business will be generated by demand generation activities on behalf of partners.

What types of joint activities do you support with partners?

We have recently moved towards more joint go-to-market activities across sales and marketing. We’re particularly excited about the Intelligent Edge events that we will be delivering globally, because these will form a formal demand generation engine with partners. We use our partners as content delivery agents. Our primary tactics involve webinars, thought leadership, account-based marketing and sales enablement. Obviously, there has been a lot more virtual in the last few months, but I think this will carry on. In recent months we have cancelled around 12 major events, and halved our budget but tripled our demand capability. 

How do you measure demand generation activities with partners?

Our marketing function is disciplined on funnel management, and focused on sales. This is partly because of the length of our sales cycles, which are atypical. We break the funnel process into 10 stages, and I am obsessive about measurement. We know the number of touches for each contact; the response drivers by contact; and the frequency and type of contact. We track decision-maker chains and look at individual behaviours across a target account. All our activities are highly personalised. Two individuals visiting our website will have distinctly different experiences. We also track margins by sale and the contribution of each partner. We report on leads by the hour and day and track their progress through to closure.

Where does the partner marketing function sit within your company?

Most partner marketing activity is currently driven by sales and product teams. However, from 2021, we will have a Partner Marketing team in marketing, who will focus by vertical on partner demand generation and partner activities. In a business like ours, partner marketing is sandwiched between the partner organisation, product marketing and communications. The backbone to our operation is partnering to build intellectual property. 

How do you select partners for strategic high visibility lead generation?

We start by vertical—avionics, defence, engineering and automotive. Many of our partners are large multinational organisations, such as Samsung and Honeywell. We do not have exclusive relationships with partners, but intellectual property issues mean that there are restrictions in some geographies on partner selection and engagement. When we do select and jointly market with partners, we require them to be well positioned in their specialist market. We work with large companies delivering large industrial engineering projects, and they have to understand the complexities of our software and the ‘intelligent edge’.

How do thought leadership and case studies fit into your co-marketing work with partners?

Case studies are not appropriate for Wind River, because of issues around confidentiality. This also means that we can’t create communities by vertical. However, thought leadership is very important to us across all our markets. In 2021, we will be launching a series of virtual events called The Intelligent Edge with a TED Talk tone and approach, delivered with partners. We’ll focus on telling stories across our vertical markets and partners.

What alignment challenges have you faced in demand generation activities with partners?

Our direct sales functions work extremely well with partners. We have consciously ensured that everyone benefits from any sale, with ‘double bubble’ commission for both our direct sales force and partners. This means that all sales, regardless of partner or solution or source of lead, are treated with the same commitment. This has helped prevent alignment issues. The sophisticated nature of our partner and client relationships means it’s vital that sales, product marketing and marketing communications are all working together.

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