There are a variety of responsibilities that go into channel management. These tasks include PRM set-up, one-on-one communication with priority partners, onboarding, MDF approvals, and data analysis. While this may seem like a lot, we’ll highlight some strategies to streamline and automate these processes.
This article will dig into each key step in the channel management process, why it’s so crucial, and best practices to keep in mind.
When managing your channel, a Partner Relationship Management tool (PRM) truly is essential. Similar to a CRM for salespeople, a PRM keeps track of all your partners, partner activity, open deals, and more. It also houses your sales and marketing resources, automates outreach, and makes it easy for partners to register new deals.
First, you need to select the right tool for your channel. We covered this process in-depth in a Channel Management Software Best Practices. Next comes tool set-up. Setting up your PRM in a way that makes it easy for your team and partners to use maximizes the value of the tool.
Ensure you load all resources into your PRM and relevant processes implemented. Organizing content by industry, partner type, and tier is a great way to reduce partners’ confusion, as the portal should serve users with materials that pertain specifically to their needs. From there, provide thorough training to your internal team. Look for opportunities to improve management processes or adjust your system for efficiency and ease of use.
Once your team is comfortable working within your PRM, you can roll it out to your existing partners. Provide a live demonstration of the tool, as well as recorded videos and documents they can reference after the fact. Again, look for areas where you see friction to improve. Your PRM should make everyone’s lives easier — not more challenging.
Partner Onboarding & Training
Before you start onboarding, you should begin tactical communication with your recruited partners. It’s essential to manage recruited or new partners’ expectations through clear, thorough communication. Doing so minimizes the need to field questions (and frustrations) later.
As you bring on new partners, it’s essential to provide comprehensive onboarding and training so they’re well-equipped for success. Having an outlined process makes these efforts much easier to complete consistently. You may opt to adjust your approach as you learn more and onboard additional partners. Consider also how different types of partners (SIs vs. agencies vs. affiliates) may require different onboarding and training.
Onboarding should include an overview of your platform or services, an introduction to their main point of contact, and training on your PRM. Here, it’s essential that you’re speaking to the right stakeholders. But, again, this may vary depending on the types of partners.
One-on-one Communication with Priority Partners
While your PRM will serve as a resource library and a go-between for partners, you still need to maintain one-on-one communication with your high-priority partners who present the most significant opportunity.
Develop a process to reach out and connect with those partners regularly. In addition to email check-ins, you may consider implementing bi-weekly or monthly status calls where you can discuss recent updates, wins, and obstacles.
One-on-one communication is vital for showing your partner how invested you are in the relationship. What’s more, they can offer new viewpoints about ways to improve your materials or management processes for improved channel performance.
Market Development Funds
Approving MDF requests is another channel management responsibility that your PRM should simplify. It should be easy for partners to make requests within your partner portal and provide all necessary information for approval.
You should have a set of questions partners need to answer when requesting funds. These can include:
- Who is the target audience of this campaign?
- What efforts will this campaign entail? (Which platforms, media formats, etc.)
- What is the anticipated ROI of this campaign?
- Will you be requesting MDF from any other partners to support this effort?
From there, you’ll need to determine the “right” answers. This may be on a case-by-case basis, but you’ll want to compare their responses to your overall goals. Do they align? Will this investment help you achieve more results than other efforts of similar expense?
Depending on your overall budget, you may have quarterly or yearly limits for MDF. Communicate the timeline for this with your partners so they understand when it’s best to submit their requests. Frequently, it can help to have requests ahead of time from all your partners so that you can review and prioritize them before the new budget opens.
Analyzing Partner Data
Which partners are influencing the most pipeline? Which types of partners drive the most revenue? Which partners require the least investment from your team to succeed? These are all questions that you should process when analyzing partner data to improve your channel management strategy.
Just as you would review the efficacy of your sales and marketing efforts, you need to do the same for your partner and channel efforts. Use the data you’ve gathered to improve the partner experience, such as refreshing low-engagement materials or providing incentives at junctures in which partners commonly stop engaging.
Similar to reviewing the results with your team, you should discuss your data review with your partners, providing transparency about how they’re performing against set benchmarks. Then, take the time on a monthly or quarterly cadence to review your partner data, analyze your findings, and make a plan for communicating them and adjusting your ongoing efforts accordingly.
Strategies to Optimize Your Channel Partner Management Process
There’s a lot that goes into managing your channel partners. This process starts before onboarding with setting clear expectations and ensuring your team is prepared to support your partners. Setting up tools like your PRM will help to optimize your process and streamline your efforts.
Partner onboarding, training, and one-on-one communication are all essential to forging strong relationships. Regularly, you’ll want to analyze your partner data and report back to your channel partners accordingly.
Allbound users have driven a 376% increase in partner engagement and seen a 15x ROI on their efforts. You, too, can use Allbound to support your channel partner management and streamline your efforts. Learn more and get started by requesting a demo.