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10 Misconceptions Delaying the Shift to Partner Ecosystem Management

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The move to automation in partner ecosystem management, otherwise known as PRM, is critical. Without scalable systems in place, channel growth is significantly limited, and your organization will struggle to compete in an increasingly ecosystem-centric world.

An Accenture survey recently revealed that 76% of business leaders believe ecosystems will be the main disruptor to current business models, with 65% of organizations seeing partnerships as very important to their future. 

According to a survey conducted in 2023 with Hubspot and Pavilion, nearly 35% of non-partner marketing and sales leaders believe partners are becoming significantly more effective as a channel, with 67.4% of partner marketing and sales leaders seeing the channel as becoming significantly more effective.

With the increasing cost and challenge of direct acquisition, the time is fast approaching to “sell-through,” not just “sell-to.” But how do you do that?

When deciding to increase the ecosystem selling component of your go-to-market strategy, you must plan the mechanics of how you begin, scale, and maintain. Although the ecosystem model of selling has huge benefits in terms of scalability, reduced acquisition costs, larger deal sizes, accelerated sales cycles, and higher retention, how you maintain and nurture those relationships can make the difference between success and failure.

This is where Partner Ecosystem Management comes in. Historically known as Partner Relationship Management (PRM), Ecosystem Management provides the co-keep component to the co-sell/co-keep ecosystem play by providing a seamless lifecycle experience for the identification, acquisition, and nurturing of strategic partner relationships.

By transitioning from managing partner relationships via emails, spreadsheets, and home-grown partner portals to a fully automated solution, you can focus on the partners that provide the highest value to your customers, as well as identify new partners to increase mutual customer value.

When you automate ecosystem management, some of the benefits you’ll enjoy include:

  • Less time hunting down lost emails and sifting through complex Google sheets
  • Fewer 1:1 partner training sessions
  • Less time co-branding and co-marketing
  • More face time with the higher-value partners
  • More time to research new partner recruitment opportunities
  • Access a 360-degree view of your partner community
  • Optimize the partner long tail and identify latent partner opportunity within that tail

Although the pivot to automated partner management is inevitable, crossing that pivot point can seem intimidating for many organizations. It shouldn’t be! 

Let’s delve into some of the best-known misconceptions in moving from legacy partner program management processes to comprehensive PRM automation.

PRM Misconception #1: Our Partner Program Isn’t Mature Enough to Leverage a PRM

There are no minimum requirements for moving to an automated partner lifecycle management. Even a brand-new channel organization can benefit from automating their nascent partner program. We have customers that have embraced automation with just three partners. Most PRM solutions (certainly Allbound) have hundreds of best practice templates that assist in everything from partner onboarding, co-marketing, co-selling, deal registration, and MDF processing. 

By making the PRM decision early in your partner program journey, you benefit from best-practice partner management from hundreds of other companies, as well as the ability to quickly implement those practices in a repeatable, scalable, and transparent way. PRM could, in fact, be the first step in igniting a fledgling partner program!

Giving partners an initial experience with your early program through a best-in-class PRM solution sets your organization on the path to long-term success. By using PRM to double-down your focus on a few early key partners, you can more effectively ensure mutual commercial success, delight those early partners, and have the data-driven insights to drive your company to invest more into the partner program. 

If your program is young, it may not be well invested. Automating the day-to-day aspects of program maintenance means you can do more with less. It also means that the resources you have can now be directed to ensuring the commercial success of your early partners.

If you think PRM is not for you because of the stage of your partner program, we’d urge you to think again. Some of the most successful organizations (in terms of mutual commercial success) are those that have adopted automation early on. We believe adopting automation from day 1 will become the de facto methodology for moving along a successful ecosystem go-to-market.

PRM Misconception #2: The Cost of Ownership Outweighs the Potential Gain

If you’re in the early phases of establishing a partner program, or still heavily invested in direct acquisition, it can be challenging to justify investing in channel, particularly for organizations still trying to establish the value of partnerships with senior leadership.

We have found savings of up to 60% when automating repetitive manual tasks and enabling partner self-service.

 While this is a significant benefit, the real value comes from what can be done with the time that’s unleashed as a result.

To co-create great results with your partners, you must make strategic investments early on. Investing in PRM unlocks a surplus of growth opportunities while enabling long-term scalability. With a PRM, your organization can onboard and engage partners more efficiently while driving increased revenue, stronger partner engagement, and ultimately more commercial success at scale.

Consider how many team members focus on partnerships. Depending on the size of your team and their salaries, you’re likely investing a significant amount into your partner program already. When you think about the time spent on repetitive tasks each week, such as training, MDF processing, lead distribution etc, the ROI of a PRM begins to become clearer.

We have found savings of up to 60% when automating repetitive manual tasks and enabling partner self-service. While this is a significant benefit, the real value comes from what can be done with the time that’s unleashed as a result. Strategic focus on key partners, identification of new partners, behavioural analysis of partners on the platform, more creative co-marketing initiatives, higher quality leads to distribute to the base, optimizing of the long tail. The list goes on. Businesses moving to partner lifecycle automation can expect upwards of 35% revenue uplift from indirect channels. Check out our ROI calculator to see if this is true for your organization.

For more established partner programs, the ROI is even greater. A PRM is a powerful tool for improving partner engagement. One organization grew its revenue by 200% with the help of a PRM.

PRM Misconception #3: Too Disruptive to Our Process

One of the most common misconceptions about automating relationship management is the potential disruption it could bring to established processes. Many organizations worry they’ll miss the systems they’ve established and struggle to implement new processes.

Good PRM platforms make it easy to maintain and streamline your existing processes. Instead of upheaving existing systems, introduce automation in consumable stages to simplify your team’s efforts and prepare for long-term scalability.

For example, you may want to just use PRM to automate deal registration or lead distribution, maybe just mdf management. Many Allbound customer begin with Learn Management for partner on-boarding and transition to co-marketing, before adopting co-selling with lead distribution. You go at your pace. We know this transition can feel daunting, but most PRM providers are experts at walking you through the processes, demonstrating value at each stage of the journey.

Bear in mind that if you’re still managing partner activity through emails and spreadsheets, then you’re forcing your partners to have to do the same. By transitioning over time to a fit-for-purpose PRM, your partners now have a one-stop-shop for everything about your business, with full visibility in the status of the relationship.

Will there be some disruption, possibly yes. Is the amount of disruption worth the result (for both you and your partners)? Our customers would respond with a solid YES.

PRM Misconception #4: Negatively Impacts Partners

Strong partnerships and engaged relationships go together, so it’s no surprise that many channel professionals worry that implementing automation could turn their partners off them. 

Automation can streamline many manual, tedious processes that keep your Channel Managers from effectively engaging with your best partners. By offloading repetitive tasks to automation, your Channel Managers can spend more time personally engaging with partners where it’s most beneficial.

Additionally, it can be challenging for Channel Managers to stay in contact with all the partners in their territory all the time. Through automation, it’s possible to always be in touch with every partner, sending tailored messages that encourage them to stay engaged or re-engage.

As mentioned above, if you’re managing partner activity manually, then you’re probably forcing your partners to have to do the same. And bear in mind, you’re not the only vendor they’re doing business with. Many companies who have moved to an automated platform report that their partners are relieved, and also impressed that the company has put the investment and effort into a fit-for-purpose partner management solution. It can often be a strong differentiator for you when it comes to deal registration. 

Your competitors are likely already investing in ecosystem management automation. If you’re the only organization that requires your partners to do manual work, they’ll spend less time focusing on your partnership and more time with their partners who have simplified tasks through automation.

PRM Misconception #5: My Channel Team Doesn’t Have Enough Time

Like any other process improvement, making the move to automation in ecosystem selling takes time. However, the initial time investment pays out significant dividends quickly.

It’s very time-consuming if you have to update content everywhere and then manually manage who can see what and where, especially as a global program. Time is money, and Allbound saves hours of time!


Global Program Channel Lead at Powell Software

As previous said, by making the transition to automation over time, you can orchestrate how you use resource to minimize disruption to you and your partners.

By implementing a PRM and automating aspects of the ecosystem sales and maintenance cycle, your team will save substantial time and resources that can instead be spent on activities with a greater impact on the bottom line.

PRM Misconception #6: Must Create a Ton of New Content

Loading great content into your PRM is a powerful way to get impactful resources directly into the hands of your partners. Be that training and onboarding material, or sales and marketing collateral.

It might sound like your team has to build a library full of new resources to populate your content repository. It’s a popular misconception that there needs to be ‘new content’ to go along with a new platform. This simply isn’t the case. You may not actually know how much traction your existing content has received from your partners if you’ve been managing this manually, so why not start by using existing content and use the PRM to provide behavioural feedback on content usage? You can even use this behavioural data to ensure partners are encouraged to use it whenever it is relevant.

Many Allbound users get started without any partner content at all. Once their partner portal is up and running, they can explore which asset types and topics partners are most interested in, then focus on building those resources as needed.

As you build your content repository, the platform will continuously assess partner behavior, so you can use your content to determine which products, services, and asset types are being consumed the most by partners.

Finally, if content creation is required and resources scarce, we have a selection of partners that can help not only create content, but implement best practice use in the partner channel.

PRM Misconception #7: Partners Just Won’t Use It

For most organizations, partners love having a central platform they can leverage for all aspects of the relationship. Including training, sales and marketing content, MDF resources, deal registration, and more all in one place makes it easy to find everything.

With the adoption of the PRM, we made a giant leap in terms of engagement and interaction with our channel partners. It is much more than a repository of sales and marketing content. It fosters communication and collaboration with our ecosystem of dealers, wholesalers, and distributors. For the very first time in the NFON history, we have a platform that is perceived as the partner’s main entrance to the NFON world.


Channel Operation Manager at NFON

Most PRM platforms track all activity across the partner base, so you now have data-driven decisions that can guide partner best practice and use cases for platform use. You can use this to promote either areas of the platform, or specific content known to be of high value to certain partners.

Gamification capabilities are also included in many PRM platforms (certainly ours) to ensure a motivated use of the platform. We find that partners love nothing more than to compete for your business, and our creative gamification capabilities have shown significant increases in partner engagement and corresponding deal creation.

In any case, when your partners get paid on deals they’ve brought in, or receive leads you have distributed to them, there is little doubt they’ll be returning to the platform for more!

PRM Misconception #8: We Could Lose Data

Another fear is that migrating to a PRM could lead to lost deals, MDF, contacts, and more. After all, your leads and contact data are incredibly precious and critical to yours and your partners’ business.

However, it’s also important to consider the potential data loss when leveraging manual and homegrown systems. Thanks to out-of-date spreadsheets and disparate data systems, manual processes are more likely to lead to dropped deals, missed opportunities, and lost data. This in turn can lead to damaged partner relationships and brand reputation. As well as a healthy dose of frustration.

PRM systems are designed to house all partner data in one place, and in a highly secure manner. Through integration with CRM systems, this precious data can be integrated into other systems, increasing its value and securing it’s integrity.

PRM Misconception #9: My Team Must Learn Another Tool in the Tech Stack

There are often so many tools in an organization’s tech stack that it can feel overwhelming to keep up with them all. The good news about implementing a PRM is that it typically consolidates many existing tools, and as a result, streamlines processes.

A PRM can be an effective replacement for:

PRM typically consolidates many existing tools and as a result, streamlines processes.

  • Learning Management Systems – Provide training to partners and your internal team
  • Partner Content Library – Organize sales and marketing resources, including 1-pagers, templates, and more.
  • MDF Distribution Platform – Partners can request and receive MDF without leaving the portal.
  • Partner Training and Certification Platform – Partners can go through training and earn certifications in one centralized location.

When considering implementing a PRM solution, consider what systems could be replaced and where you would need integration. Most of our customer find they can replace one or more existing systems in the tech stack when they really consider how they have been using existing tech compared to how they’d use PRM. We’re always happy to assist in building businesses case based on these scenarios.

PRM Misconception #10: Integration to CRM Will Be Painful

Most PRM systems have packaged integrations to CRM systems, providing a central point of truth of all commercial activity, be that Inbound, Outbound, or Partner-sourced. By comparing key KPIs across all three methods of revenue generation, your business can make strategic decisions about future investments. This will become increasingly important as the move to ecosystem selling continues to move apace.

With the right solution, integration to a CRM is usually pain-free. Most PRM vendors have performed man y CRM integrations, so there will be few integration scenarios they haven’t seen before. Great PRM platforms provide thorough onboarding support, ensuring your channel team has all the resources they need to start leveraging automation right away.

It was one of the smoothest implementation projects we have experienced with a vendor platform. The team was helpful and guided our integration with HubSpot. All our questions were answered, and we felt supported.

Sion Retzkin

Head off Channel Enablement, EMEA & APAC at Pentera

Allbound’s Salesforce integration is available via the app exchange and we’re one of only two HubSpot-certified PRM vendors.

It’s Time to Stop Delaying Partner Ecosystem Management Adoption

Many of the reservations about implementing partner ecosystem management are based on misconceptions. Though adopting a new system may seem intimidating, it will benefit your organization and entire channel by saving time, optimizing resources, and increasing partner engagement. The pivot to ecosystem selling is happening now. Those businesses that can get ahead of the change and embrace PRM in the same way that CRM has been adopted will reap the rewards earlier and for longer.

Ali Spiric
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