To stay current and relevant, you need to continuously develop your partner program to ensure you continue to attract and retain the right partners. When developing or updating your partner program, the simplest and most effective guidance is to walk a mile in your partners’ shoes. Talk to a small, mid-sized, and a large partner to understand their challenges and motivators. You will discover that you and your products are not the only thing on their mind.
It is hard to strike a happy balance between being different and standing out, but also keeping it simple.
When questioned >54% of Channel Professionals at The Channel Meet Up admitted they either didn’t have an established partner program, or that it needed improvement.
Partner Programs used to be based on a simple points system, but then more sophisticated matrices defined the metal badges of Gold, Silver, and Bronze.
Qualifications for these were made up of revenue by mature or emerging market, competencies and training, marketing (content syndication on the partner’s website, use and proof of performance of MDF, etc.) and perhaps even including a requirement for lead follow-up and conversion.
These complex programs became increasingly unwieldy and no longer represented a value position for those partners who were recommending or influencing deals, without transacting.
So, now we have come full circle (although some may have stayed in the same place) as vendors try to update their programs to ensure they are providing the right value, for the right partners.
When asked (**) a staggering 80% of vendor channel professionals were not happy with their mix of partners.
The return to a points-based system was heralded by Microsoft as the new MCPP (Microsoft Cloud Partner Program) as they award partners points where they need more than 70 to qualify for a “Solution Designation.” The criteria are on 3 things: net new customers, skills, and importantly, customer retention. This plays to the ARR (annual recurring revenue) subscription model as maintaining a level of customer service is vital to ensure customers keep paying.
Rewards are still just as important today for partners who are transacting as deal profitability is everything, and so they still need good margins and rich rebates.
For instance, deal registration is one of the simplest and most common motivators, especially when doing so gives partners easy access to relevant sales scripts or assets that help them sell and wrap their services into the deal.
Persona-based motivation is valuable, so long as it remains simple to understand, easy to access, with speedy payment. SPIFS are commonly used to reward the individual, but some people prefer non-financial incentives such as badges or kudos.
The old-fashioned VIP trip is less common these days, but never underestimate the power of a face-to-face meeting. For instance, joining the partner sales team on their sales floor helps drive the energy. Sadly, post covid, some of the F2F interactions are still missing with Microsoft Inspire for their partners remaining a virtual event.
If you want to stand out, maybe now is the time
to have a real F2F event or partner kick off.
Another “relic” of the old school which is enjoying a revival (contrary to many pundit predictions) is the distributor who help smaller vendors manage their partners and partner program. With the advent of Marketplaces and SaaS, their role was questioned, but they still offer a ton of services to partners that make them invaluable.
Distributors share the same understanding that there is more than one vendor.
As such, they help to develop multi-vendor marketing campaigns and they pride themselves on their slick logistics and being easy to work with. They are not just a transaction destination but a value-add service or agency with a host of business services that make partners’ day-to-day business easier.
When vendors bury all their assets on a portal making them hard to find, or the assets have vendor branding painted front and centre, distributors can be the key marketing enabler for partners. They take a pivotal role of managing these ecosystems of vendors and partners and with an average of 6 or 7 solutions making up every deal, they bring all the moving parts together. I’m a firm believer they will be core to our industry for a long time yet.
When it comes to portals, it is worth mentioning that not all portals are created equal. I squirm when a vendor tells me they built their own. Why would you do that and use precious internal development resources to build something that someone else has done better already? There are some great portals out there which provide partners with an easy interaction and a good digital experience.
Although, talking of bad experiences, I received an email recently from a well know vendor with 14 links embedded. I mean really, where is the call to action?
A good portal will allow both vendor and partner to see who has sold what to whom and give a steer towards cross and upsell opportunities. What is harder to plot are all the other partners who have brought that customer to the dance.
Apparently, there are 28 moments in a customer journey where partners influence the decision, but the challenge is for vendors to pay those partners at the point of value (rather than for the final transaction) and build that into their partner program.
In recent research from Canalsys they stated:
“There are increasing demands on channel professionals to find, recruit, onboard, develop, incentivize, co-sell, co-market, co-innovate, measure, manage and report on partner value at scale. Automation, deeper integrations, and data-driven decision-making are creating measurable competitive advantage (through partnerships) and are quickly becoming table stakes in the industry.”
Channel software (partner portals and tools), aims to ease this burden and there are plenty to choose from. If you think you are falling behind and need greater automation and to improve the digital experience of your partners, check out how you stack up compared to others in the industry - take the Audit test to find out and receive your personalised response: CLICK THE LINK HERE
The Marketing Bee
This was a collaborative blog from The Marketing Bee with thanks to the contributors: @Sophy @Sally @Olivier @Emma @Hilary @Jacqui
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