Once you've identified prospects it's important to qualify design partners by speaking with individuals who you would collaborate with to achieve product-market fit. We call these individuals advocates.
Typically, an advocate is motivated to help you shape product direction and evangelize your product within their organization. They tend to be early adopters of new technologies, have clout in the organization, and aren’t afraid to seek out new ways to improve the business even though your technology may not directly align with their day-to-day objectives. They’re more than just a happy product tester.
Advocates are motivated to use your product because it solves a problem they have right now and can immediately see how to use it to solve that problem. They should be able to tell you how they would like to use your product to solve their problem.
As you work through your outbound messaging plan to identify prospective design partners, you will discuss workflow pain points with a number of individuals. The individuals who will make effective design partners stand out through the way they engage with you and the solutions evident in your product.
You need an advocate to spearhead and rally others within their organization to test your product. In my experience, it often takes about two calls to get someone really excited to the point where you’re confident they’ll become a committed advocate for you within their organization.
Done well, all the time you invest into qualifying an advocate will pay off in the end. If you’re able to eventually sell your product to an awesome engineering organization, other companies are more likely to follow suit. At the end of the day, your design partners represent the kinds of companies that you’ll soon try selling to. If you can convert your design partner into a customer, you’ll set yourself up for success to replicate the process with other companies later.
Short answer: it depends — for example, it doesn’t really matter if they’re an engineer or a CTO. While there aren’t any consistent job titles per se, design partner advocates tend to be influential within the organization and able to “get pull” with upper management and within their team. Their ability to influence others in their company and provide you direct access to decision-makers is precisely what makes an enthusiastic product tester a product design advocate.
A great design partner advocate also is willing to work with you to refine your messaging in order to make the right sales pitch when the time is right.
You’ll talk to a lot of individuals as you prospect for design partners. Don’t waste time on those who don’t have much enthusiasm for what you’re doing. Look for responses such as:
The right design partner advocates are those who:
Advocates might even begin suggesting how to solve their problem with your product in ways you hadn’t yet considered.
Stated another way, the right design partners begin behaving like design partners in the first or second meeting in that they’re already advocating for you within their organization and helping you see how to iterate toward product-market fit.
Here’s a checklist you can use to help identify the right design partners. After some initial discussion, these questions will help you identify the prospect’s level of interest and commitment. To check a box, look for answers similar to those we’ve included.
Companies ultimately decide to make a software purchase for one of these business reasons:
In order to successfully close a design partner it’s important to understand how that organization evaluates new technologies through these lenses.
This ultimately highlights who the decision maker is. The decision maker is the person the team needs final approval from before evaluating and purchasing any software. You need to make sure you meet this person to address any concerns/questions they may have about your product.
How does the company evaluate new technologies?
A great way to get an answer to this question is to ask how they’ve previously purchased software.
Their answer will highlight the company’s evaluation process.
Why do they need to solve this problem now?
The answer helps highlight the urgent buyer problem.
It’s important to understand how your competitors are positioning themselves against you. This way you can mine for competitive intelligence as well as combat objections.
As we mentioned in the Innovator outreach and interview tactics module, if your design partner hasn’t already done so, ask them to sign a mutual non-disclosure agreement, so you can speak freely with each other.
Shape your MVP with design partners