5 Steps to building an effective Independent Software Vendor network

26th June 2023

Independent Software Vendor (ISV) partner networks will empower your sales and revenue to grow exponentially, so long as you are partnering with the right people and managing them in the right way.

Ally Bancroft, our SVP of Global Strategic Accounts shares her ‘5 Steps to building an ISV network’-based on years of experience and success:


  1. Define the term ISV and have maximum clarity around it.

The first step to building an effective ISV network is understanding what exactly is meant by ‘Independent Software Vendor’. While the term itself might seem clear to understand, the lines between ISVs, VARS, resellers large enterprises are really blurred. The definition of ISV varies, across the industry and from organisation to organisation and this can be problematic.

At The Marketing Practice, we’ve done a huge amount of work in this area and our definition works effectively for us and our clients. To us, an ISV is a company that develops software, owns the code and sells licences to it, and over 60% of the organization’s revenue comes from license sales.

This definition helps to identify which organisations are more service led and allows us to focus on high quality, expert developing partners for our clients -who will share an interest in the growth they offer.

2. Understand competencies 

Once a solid definition of ISV has been reached, it is important for partners to define their audience. A client needs to think about what makes an ISV a suitable fit for them – and aim to engage those that will become beneficial partners and not just a number. Always keep your audience front of mind.

E.g. if you are a cloud security company, you will want to start looking at ISVs security competencies to make sure their software aligns with your goals and your audience’s needs.

An ISV network is effectively a sales network, so partners must ensure that there is a solid value offering from their partnership. Focusing on your audience and what you want to achieve by partnering with ISVs will help ensure that you are making the right connections that serve your audience.


3. Make a priority list

Start making a priority list which focuses on who you are and what you want an ISV to help you provide. This list should work to help you find out more about the ISV under consideration and ought to be consulted with every purchase to ensure a smooth running and effective network.

The list should prompt your buying team to look at many different features when choosing to go after an ISV including their license revenue, geography, size, number of apps, type apps etc.

Establishing an ISV priority list will help you to make sure the ISVs you partner up with are the best fit for yours or your client’s company prior to the recruitment stage and minimise numbers of messy relationships.


4. Focus on quality > quantity 

Traditionally, companies will want to go for as many ISVs as possible in the hopes that they will act as a gateway to software purchases. This blanket approach works for huge companies like a large multi-national technology vendor as it is in their interest to make as many software’s as possible work seamlessly together, however, smaller companies will not have the capacity to make this work effectively.

Using a large multi-national technology vendor as an example, are able to have and request huge numbers of partners because they have amazing mechanisms in place to manage them. These processes will include stringent selection processes, a well-oiled onboarding process and specially hired teams to manage them etc. Most companies cannot manage this many people – though, they will often still request high numbers of ISV partners when they come to us at The Marketing Practice.

This is not to say you don’t want to be getting as many ISVs as possible. It is simply better to have 500 of the right relationships, with companies with the right skills that work effectively, than trying to manage 5000 people you don’t know about and who don’t align with your goals.

“If a client asked me for 10, 000 partners, I would question it. Ask what they’re going to do with it, how they’re going to manage it. I would say: reduce the search and focus on quality”.


5. Think about how you approach ISVs

ISVs want to engage with vendors -but they need to be approached in a way that recognises that the ISV is its own business.

DO: Put your arm round them and show that you want to help grow their business. Offer them a form of integration and ask if they’re interested. Take into account they are a standalone business with their own plans and drivers and will often be acting largely what their customer base is saying to them (this might not be what you think).

DON’T: Present a sales driven messages or be too directive. Don’t assume they want to move in the direction you want them to or tell them they need to upgrade or change certain features prematurely.

ISVs are engaged with every audience -including channels and partners, so they will be contacted weekly or even daily with offers like the ones you are making. It is important, when building your network, to make sure you show ISVs the value of your engagement and not get ahead of yourself when making contact.

At The Marketing Practice, everything we do is relationship based. This opens doors for us and our clients, campaign after campaign, and it has given us a strong presence within the ISV community. We focus on handing relationships over to the vendor -rather than opportunities.


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