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A Boost to Channel Programs: Allbound’s $43 Million Growth Equity Investment from Invictus Growth Partners
As 2022 draws to a close, there are seemingly endless projects to complete and loose ends to wrap up, resulting in a busy Q4.
With so many competing priorities, it’s important to set your partners up for success in the new year.
This can be achieved in part by prioritizing an updated channel partner portal that includes the right tools and resources they’ll need to close out the year strong.
Taking a look at your existing partner portals and identifying areas that could be cleaned up or improved will then set your partner relationships up for success in 2023.
Why and How to Include Partner Portals in Your Channel Audit
As you wrap up end-of-year campaigns, you’re likely already viewing metrics and gathering data on your partner program. Perhaps you’re currently preparing to present these numbers to key stakeholders concerned with measuring KPI and assessing the ROI of each partnership.
While your organization’s revenue-related goals need to measure partner sales numbers, there’s much more you can dig into to provide a clearer picture of overall channel performance.
Perform a channel audit to assess where you’re currently at so you can start making improvements.
A channel audit not only provides insight into how your program is currently performing, it will also help you make strategic decisions and improvements for the year (or years) to come.
One key piece that should be included in your channel audit is partner engagement.
How well each partner engages with your content, training exercises, quizzes, onboarding and other vital resources will provide insight into how engaged they are and how successful the partnership is overall.
So, where do partner portals come into play?
All the aforementioned resources are housed in the portal. Consider whether or not your portal empowers your partners to take the desired action, accomplish shared goals and engage with your organization.
If you discover in your audit that engagement with playbooks, training certifications or movement through each milestone is low, it’s likely time to revisit your portal.
Remember: The portal is one piece of the puzzle in your partner program.
However, it can offer a tremendous amount of insight into which partners might need motivation or extra attention in the coming year.
What to Tidy Up In Your Partner Portals
If you’re looking to drive engagement and create a better experience for partners, putting a bit of elbow grease into your portal can make a big difference.
Here are a few key questions to ask yourself:
- Marketing tools and resources: How clear are your marketing instructions? Are partners using the tools provided? Is it easy for them to launch campaigns? Have new resources been added? Do existing resources need to be updated?
- Integrations: Have you adopted any new software this quarter that could benefit partners? Are your tech stack and CRM integrations working properly?
- Design: Is the portal clean, simple and intuitive to navigate and use? Is all co-branding up-to-date?
As you answer the questions related to each element of your portal, really put yourself in your partner’s shoes.
If you run into roadblocks, or you identify areas that are clunky, difficult to navigate or otherwise don’t perform or look the way you initially wanted them to, it’s time to do some cleaning to make your portal spotless.
Communicate with your teammates to assign clean-up projects to the appropriate individuals. Keep channel partner experience (PX) in mind and automate processes within your portal to make each action even more streamlined and simplified.
How to Determine If Your Portal is Partner-Friendly
As you audit your portal and begin planning for improvements, it’s important to gain outside perspectives on what’s working and what could change.
The first step is to talk to partners to see if they have specific updates they’d like to see on their portal.
Some improvements may not necessarily be feasible, while others may take a while to accomplish. Setting clear expectations and establishing timelines with partners makes your portal readiness projects much smoother.
Next, take a look at the metrics and usage rates on various materials and resources in the portal.
If usage is low, for example, this could indicate that a piece of content or resource may be difficult to find, tricky to access or complicated to use.
It could also point to instructions or naming conventions that are less than engaging.
Viewing data, coupled with partner conversations, will give you the right insight to inform your improvement plan moving forward.
Now, ask yourself: Is my portal fun? Do partners actually want to use the portal?
Gamification is a great feature to incorporate into the overall channel PX to boost engagement and get partners returning to the hub you’ve designed.
If you’re not already, you can assign points to partners for completing certain actions, which doubles as an easy way to improve your portal for next year.
Lastly, work with your Implementation Specialists and Customer Success Managers to lend their expertise so you can design the best possible partner portal starting now.
Creating a Portal Clean-Up Timeline
Putting together a timeline will help save your sanity and keep communication transparent with your channel partners.
While making any and every improvement to your portal by end-of-year is a dream scenario, it’s often not realistic for all organizations in a busy Q4.
The following steps can help your team put together a roadmap for your portal improvement projects.
- Create a plan to audit and update your portal within a designated time frame.
Break the audit portion and actual updates into two separate tasks so you have time to assess your channel audit results and assign improvement projects to appropriate parties.
- Make sure you have the bandwidth, and bring in extra hands as needed.
While partner managers often wear many hats, not all projects can (or should) fall on one person’s shoulders. Work with your team and across departments to determine who has the capacity to assist with portal-related projects.
- Communicate plans and progress with your partners.
Involve partners early in the process so they can offer their insights and requests upfront. Deliver your portal improvement plan and keep partners up-to-date as tasks are accomplished.
- Determine your ideal timeline.
Some portal improvement projects may be quick fixes that can be accomplished by the end of 2022, while others may be long-term goals or major updates that take a significant amount of time to see through. Again, work with your internal teams and partners to determine the next steps.
Make Your Partner Portal Even Better
From playbooks to co-marketing content and market development funds, a partner portal is the one-stop shop that helps keep partner relationships managed and successful. Take a look at the following resources to get your portal in tip-top shape for next year.
Partner Portal Best Practices and Design Checklist - Discover the key features and essential design elements to incorporate into your portal.
Automate, Scale, Integrate – PRM System Criteria - Strong partner relationships and an engaging channel experience lead to long-term success. Learn how to leverage your partner portal to build a stronger program.
7 Elements of a Successful Partner Engagement Plan - Reflect on the success of partner engagement and gain actionable insights by reviewing our strategic partnership engagement framework.
When building technology stacks, Sales and Marketing actively avoid tools with capabilities that heavily overlap in order to limit spending. This leads to a very common question: can I use my existing CRM platform to manage channel partners?
The short answer? It’s not recommended to rely upon your CRM for partner relationship management (PRM). This is because it’s not equipped with specialized features that speak directly to channel partners’ needs, such as content co-branding, onboarding, and automated content curation based on group types. The lack of comprehensive yet targeted PRM functionality will force you to rely upon multiple tools in addition to your CRM, complicating processes and erecting barriers to scalable operations.
Contrastingly, a PRM is a centralized hub intended solely to help companies enable partners through a variety of features and automations triggered by user actions and customizable settings. What’s more, PRMs are increasingly essential to staying ahead of the curve, as Forrester predicts the PRM market will grow to $679M by 2023 across all industries.
Still on the fence? Consider that PRM technology is relatively new and specifically designed to address CRMs’ insufficient abilities to service partners.
In this article, we’ll help you understand key differences between CRMs vs. PRMs and how to best integrate the two platforms.
What is PRM?
Partner relationship management software provides businesses with tools to track reseller and referral sales while also giving partners support, resources, and a portal to communicate with your business. The power of PRM comes from a personalized portal for partners where they can access documents, marketing content, market development funds (MDF), opportunities, and track deals.
PRM is considered the 3rd evolution of SaaS tools, the first being CRM and then marketing automation. When the market started changing, PRM stepped up to fill in the gaps.
What do PRMs offer in comparison to CRMs?
PRM software provides businesses with tools to track reseller and referral sales while also giving partners support, resources, and a portal in which to communicate with your business. When comparing it against CRM, PRM technology’s power can best be summarized by three points:
- It centralizes most functions and content within a partner-friendly interface - Content is housed in a library with a search bar. Features like market development funds (MDF) requests, deal registration, and prospect pages are all within a single platform. This allows both partners and your management team to be more organized, as well as to identify relationships between different portal activities and subsequent conversions.
- It grants partners controlled freedom - Partners can engage with training and quizzes when most convenient, co-brand select materials as needed, and find quick solutions using the portal’s search function. This results in partners having the autonomy necessary to be productive and achieve success on a mass scale.
- It utilizes automation to improve the partner experience - The portal micromanages partners on your behalf based on commands you set up prior to deployment. This means that you can gate some features and content from defined partner groups and map out content recommendations based on users’ past responses.
Another advantage of utilizing a specialized PRM is that it shows your partners that you invest in their success. You’re willing to spend to accommodate their needs rather than asking them to fit their square bodies into your CRM’s round hole.
Case in point, Serko, a technology solutions provider in the travel and expenses industry, uses Allbound to support their partners who manage over 6,000 customers globally. Channel sales managers at Serko were able to showcase a world-class partner program and portal in which each partner was provided with the right sales and marketing content for their needs. Serko now has 100% partner adoption, which you can read about here.
It’s not “PRM vs. CRM”, as you will need both
Your company’s CRM is not intended for managing your partner ecosystem. However, there are CRM capabilities that are indispensable to Sales and Customer Service that a PRM simply cannot provide.
The Value Your CRM Brings to Your Partner Program
Remember, CRM is an acronym for customer relationship management, meaning that it helps businesses track prospective and existing customers within a single system of record, regardless of whether they came from Direct or Indirect. Advantages of a CRM (in conjunction with a PRM) include:
- The ability for Customer Service to pull client information to better serve their needs
- Customer base data for easier analysis, enabling companies to create and test retention strategies
- The option to schedule emails to customers through the CRM and collect related open-rate data
- Comprehensive pipeline views and sales forecasting, achieved by pulling data from both your CRM and PRM into a single view
- Customer segmentation for intelligent automation and more in-depth analysis
In short, your CRM is essential to keeping all the won leads your PRM helped generate. Additionally, it grants long-term insights into the quality of partners’ leads. For example, if a particular partner group consistently generates customers with high abandonment rates, this could indicate that they’re pursuing the wrong audiences or are setting false expectations, both which modified training practices can fix.
How and Why to Integrate Your PRM and CRM
Your PRM and CRM should share real-time data with one another through integration. This will grant you:
- The ability to block duplicate deals across both platforms - when Direct Sales and a partner both lay claim to a lead, the results are messy. Avoid channel conflict by enlisting data-sharing between your PRM and CRM so both platforms will immediately notify users that the deal already exists within the sales ecosystem.
- A fuller understanding of your pipeline and sales forecasting - Your PRM and CRM should generate reports that give you an overview of today’s (and future) performance. However, why look at two separate reports when you can dive deeper into one?
- For data comparisons between direct and indirect sales performance - By enabling your CRM to pull data directly from your PRM, you can do side-by-side comparisons of how different audiences react to various strategies. This enables you to create better-informed hypotheses and have the sales channels learn from one another.
Allbound’s PRM technology has standard integrations with a number of CRM solutions, such as Salesforce, Pipedrive, SugarCRM, and Hubspot. We also can do custom integrations in order to accommodate new customers’ existing technology stacks. In order to have the process go as smoothly as possible, designated integration specialists will sync up our PRM with your choice of CRM (as well as with other technologies). The end result is seamless interactions between the two software with minimal maintenance required.
What About CRMs That Say They Offer PRM Capabilities?
Because of the rapidly accelerating interest in channel partners, the Sales world is abuzz about PRM technology. It’s only natural that some related software companies would want to capitalize on this interest by laying claim to the PRM title, even if their products don’t quite meet the definitions.
Remember, a true PRM acts as a centralized hub for partner management and sales prospect interactions. Read Automate, Scale, Integrate – PRM System Criteria for a fuller understanding of what features to expect, and remember that a tool that offers only a fraction cannot call itself a real PRM solution.
The Bottom Line About CRM vs. PRM
The market has already started moving to a comprehensive partner management approach. In fact, 65% of high-tech companies have already adopted PRM tools that deliver a significant amount of company revenue. Companies that continue to manage partners in traditional ways via CRM or spreadsheets are not only missing out on new end customer sales, but also valuable insight from the data provided by channel partners. Consider creating a great partner experience to see big returns on your bottom line.
To learn more about choosing a PRM that fulfills your program’s needs, we recommend reading Partner Portal Best Practices and Design Checklist.
How does PRM work within a complex partner ecosystem?
Channel partners are your company’s selling allies, an extension of your sales team. PRM tools give you the functionality to support a variety of partners and their end customers.
PRM tools automatically gather and analyze performance data and metrics, with a clear focus on revenue and activity metrics. Rewarding your most profitable partners with MDFs for hitting revenue targets, or training completions, ensures that you see ROI from your investment.
PRM and tracking revenue
The revenue metrics for partner programs are unique to the indirect sales model, which is why PRM tools have extensive features to track leads and revenue including:
• Partner portal software for easy communication and data exchange
• Access to relevant parts of the customer database
• Dashboards for tracking leads, deal progression, deal registration, and sales KPIs
• Data about which partners perform well and which individuals fail to generate or convert leads
• Integrations with contract, scheduling, expense, and content tools
What are the benefits of PRM?
Overseeing a partner program has traditionally involved complex spreadsheets and manual correspondence for every deal, which required switching between a CRM and other tools to fill in the gaps. This is a huge competitive disadvantage and makes it almost impossible to correlate partner activity and training to closed business. That’s why PRMs provide partner management specific features like:
• Business intelligence, automation, and template-based workflows
• Visibility on the impact of 3rd parties on reaching new buyers
• Partner segmentation for targeted experiences
• Partner channel avoidance through clear registration processes and pipeline integrations
• Planning, recruitment, onboarding, enablement, co-selling and co-marketing, and incentives
• Overview that channel managers can use to track how well training and content is performing in relation to deal registrations
Integrating your partner tool with your CRM
For a complete view of your entire revenue org, both indirect and direct, integrate your PRM with your CRM tool. Look for a PRM vendor that helps you get your integrations in order.
Allbound let’s users bring their existing sales tools with them into the partner management process. You can pass information between your PRM and CRM to create a consolidated pipeline that is your single source of truth and stays relevant with real time updates on deal registrations. Syncing your data also avoids duplicate deal registrations, making partner conflict resolution much simpler.
The market has already started moving to a comprehensive partner management approach. In fact, 65% of high tech companies have already adopted PRM tools that deliver a significant amount of company revenue. Companies that continue to manage partners in traditional ways via CRM or spreadsheets are not only missing out on new end customer sales, but also valuable insight from the data provided by channel partners. Consider creating a great partner experience to see big returns on your bottom line.