Many organizations that try to build their own user community run into the same problem; they pick a vendor rather than a trusted partner. It’s a mistake that means they don’t feel valued as a customer, while the vendor doesn’t care about their business outcomes. 

If you want to achieve sustainable audience growth, you need a community engagement partner that can help you to optimize engagement and value exchange moments you have with your community. 

That means your partner should work alongside you to provide strategic recommendations that directly enhance your business and offer regular workshops, quarterly business reviews (QBRs), technical walkthroughs, and moderation sessions to collaborate with you to fine-tune your product roadmap. 

This article will examine the difference between a vendor and a partner, and the strategic advantages the latter can bring. 

The key difference between a vendor and partner

When it comes to building your audience, the key difference is that a vendor isn’t directly invested in your business success and merely plays a passive role serving you as a customer, whereas a partner takes an active role in helping to enhance your organization so that your audience can grow.

Unfortunately, most software vendors in this space employ a revenue share model, where they will put ad placements across a digital property and then offer a payout. 

The problem with this approach is that it pigeonholes you in terms of how you’re viewed as a partner. Many vendors will treat you as a commercial deal and focus more on commercial ROI, relying on how many ad placements you’re running and your overall viewability.

Revenue share can help you increase revenue over the short-term, but does so at the cost of tying your business into a commercial model and hampering your decision-making so that you don’t have access to the collaboration you need to build an effective long-term audience growth strategy. 

A true partner addresses the limitations of the revenue share model by also offering a SaaS payment model you can use to develop an ongoing partnership with a trusted party, whose core business strategy is about helping you drive registrations and acquire unique data you’ve never seen before.

How can a partner impact sustainable audience growth?

A growth-oriented partner can significantly increase your sustainable audience growth by clearly defining organizational Objectives and Key Results (OKRs). 

These OKRs enable you to set realistic and attainable performance targets to meet, such as doubling conversation rates, subscription rates, or unique visitors across digital properties. 

It’s a methodology that isn’t focused on product delivery but instead on how the deployed solutions impact the customer’s business outcomes. The goal isn’t just to sell a product but also to implement it and to help the organization leverage that technology to grow long-term. 

One of the benefits of working with a partner is that you can gain access to valuable growth insights you might miss. For instance, they might recommend that you use push notifications on your site to increase click-through rates by up to 27.6%. 

It’s worth noting that a partner also helps to support you through the post-implementation process, providing continuous care and support even after the initial deployment of the solution to ensure that you’re in a position to generate consistent returns.

Partners shaking hands

How to know if your vendor isn’t a partner

One of the main signs that your vendor isn’t a partner is if you don’t have a single point of contact for your account. If there’s a waterfall between you and the vendor, then you can’t have an effective two-way dialogue on how to improve your value exchange. 

A true partner would review progress periodically with key stakeholders in your organization, every three to six months, depending on your needs to ensure you’re on target to meet your enterprise’s goals. 

They would also be willing to answer any questions that you have promptly and provide you with ample opportunities to share your feedback on the overall effectiveness of the service. 

You should also watch out to see if your vendor is focusing on celebrating wins rather than recommending potential improvements you could make to enhance your business continuously. 

Avoid vendors, seek out partners

A true software partner doesn’t just help with implementation and onboarding; they customize the solution to fit your long-term needs and are there for you every step of the way. 

If you and your partner aren’t strategically aligned with your mission and vision, then it’s going to be an uphill battle to achieve your business goals. So if you want the best opportunity for success in 2022, avoid working with vendors and seek out a trusted partner instead. 

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