Do you have a favorite restaurant, coffee shop or pub where you walk in the door, and they know your name or go-to meal? You may not have a designated seat, but when you arrive, you feel like you’re among friends instead of being just another paying customer.
When welcoming new partners into your channel ecosystem or even maintaining longstanding relationships with seasoned team members – that same sense of belonging will strengthen your channel program. Offering your partners personalized communications and role-based, strategic access to information resources through a community portal for Partner Relationship Management can really improve their engagement with you and their clients.
However, many organizations are missing the mark – when talking to our own clients we hear about the issues with channel programs. Consider these five points of partner frustration with vendors – and how an online Partner Relationship Management (PRM) community can help collaboration and engagement.
1. Rubiks Cubes instead of building blocks
Are your partner managers constantly fielding questions about product margins, pricing, or licensing? Are partners frequently confused about who to go to for training, product ordering, technical support or contract terms? A well-designed portal is a great way to clarify these processes and makes it easy for your internal team to share and communicate the finer details of even the most complex partner program.
2. Raiders of the lost articles
Community portals make it easy to present content to partner users, whether they are technical, executive, sales, marketing or operational materials. Some partner websites offer far too much information making navigating to relevant information frustrating. Consider FAQ pages, short video clips with explanations of your processes, or simple PowerPoint presentations.
A powerful search function, well-designed navigation, and mobile-friendly architecture are all excellent ways to encourage channel partners to make your portal the first place they go to for information as opposed to calling and emailing your partner management team. Personalized content access also helps cut the clutter of irrelevant information while protecting sensitive data that should only be available to certain roles.
3. Static, stagnant, stale
A PRM community portal addresses this challenge directly. Rather than publish content to the web and push information out, a community portal offers collaboration features like:
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• Discussion forums
• Lead registration and support case initiation
• Social sharing of ideas, articles, and questions
• Training for product and service delivery
• Document sharing like brochures, contracts, and technical documentation
These features help promote a collaborative, engaged community that is able to share experiences and tips that may not be found in your training manuals. An interactive community portal will support a connected workplace and channel team which can result in an ROI of 16x your investment.
4. Driving Blind
Integrating your portal with Salesforce or Dynamics CRM can generate rich analytics to track forecasts, service requests, and performance against targets and product certifications. Your partners can access this data in an easily digestible chart or a graph as opposed to tracking everything manually on disconnected spreadsheets. Your partner managers will also have access to the same data through your CRM, giving them the insight to jump into an opportunity to help close a sale when needed.
If your company has incentive programs such as MDF, customizable reporting dashboards make it easy for your partners to access their performance data and for your internal team to monitor who is excelling and who may need coaching.
5. A spoonful of sugar
Whether or not your company holds partner conferences in a physical space, there should be an aspect of fun in your partner community. Have your team introduce themselves on video, and take partners on a tour of your offices in an online video. Offer scoreboards of how partners are meeting monthly or quarterly incentive program targets. Encourage partners to be active and engaged in discussion forums.
One good way to increase engagement is to reward partners who share ways they’ve implemented or customized your products in interesting ways to address a specific customer problem. Customer success stories are excellent resources for partners and vendors, and you’d be surprised how effective co-opetition can be in driving innovation.
Fresh, channel-generated content is an other great way to keep your partners coming back to the community on a regular basis. Encourage partners to submit stories for publishing on a company wide blog for everyone’s benefit. Your own departmental employees could contribute articles as well. A partner community portal with many diverse opinions is a great way to generate ideas and spark interesting discussions.
A mobile-friendly, integrated PRM community portal helps alleviate many of the common pain points identified by partners in stagnant channel programs. We’ve helped many companies to improve their channel communications with personalized content, contextual data and collaboration.