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If you’ve read Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages, chances are you know about how important it is to keep your love tank full.
It’s kind of like the gas tank in your car. If it’s full, you can drive a long way – but if it’s empty, you’re not going anywhere.
Gary’s book introduces the idea of an emotional love tank. If a person’s love tank is full and that person feels genuinely appreciated and loved, life will be great. But, if the love tank runs dry, and that person doesn’t feel appreciated or loved, the world starts looking pretty dark.
Being the Chief of Customer Success and Staff, one of my main responsibilities here at Allbound is making sure everyone’s love tank is nice and full – for our customers, their partners, and our employees. Working with many different customers and partner programs has helped me realize this concept extends into the world of business and customer relationships as well.
If you’re speaking the same love language as your staff, customers, and partners, their love tank will stay nice and full, and your efforts at building an engaging and valuable partner program will be much more successful. Learning to speak each others’ love language isn’t difficult – here are a few tips on how to build an engaging and successful partner program.
Don’t Overcomplicate Your Partner Program
The biggest mistake I see when customers are starting a new partner program is that they overcomplicate it. Sure, collecting feedback from your partners is important, but too much feedback makes it easy to get stuck in the weeds, making changes like adding too many stages to your deal flow and spending all your time on tasks that don’t really impact your ROI.
The most successful partner programs I’ve seen take a phased approach, making small changes to their program and testing how each change affects partner engagement. It’ll enable you to really understand what the data’s telling you as you move through your phases.
For example, a lot of companies like to add a ton of different stages to their deal registration workflows. Having 10 different stages will only frustrate you and your partners – keeping things simple, especially at first, helps you focus on making your partners successful first.
Being thoughtful about the changes you’re making to your partner program is really important, because if you try to go full throttle and make everything work all at once, you may experience difficulties that could have been avoided if you had been slower in your process.
Understand What Engagement Means To You
Different partner programs need to measure success and partner engagement in different ways. I tend to see a lot of people who don’t take the time to discover what ROI means to them – this makes it hard to understand what changes will improve your return from your partner program.
I don’t think there’s a one size fits all, and that’s where Allbound differs from our competitors. We don’t treat our customers like they should fit into a box, and they should only be watching specific measures.
Let’s say your partner program focuses mainly on deal registration – your definition of success, then, will center on how many new deals are being registered each month. On the other hand, if your program is built around partners providing referrals, your success metrics are going to vary considerably.
Part of our onboarding and customer success experience is we ask a lot of validating questions to understand what success means to them. Sometimes if it’s their first partner program and they don’t know what to ask, they’re looking to us to help guide them on best practices.
So we ask them questions like:
- What did you do in the past?
- What would you like to see that you’re not seeing today?
- What kind of data points would you love to show to your boss that you can’t show them today?
- What kind of quality do you think you bring to the team in your role?
Ask Your Partners The Right Questions
There are so many questions you can ask based on the data you can pull from tools like Allbound. It’s important to not only focus on the numbers, but to dig into the “why” behind any changes. This is how you can understand how to improve engagement within your program and make sure you’re able to speak your partners’ love language.
When measuring engagement within a partner program, a sales-oriented program manager might want to ask these important questions:
- How many deals are being registered each month?
- How many deals are closing each month?
- How full is our deal pipeline?
On the other hand, a marketing-oriented program manager might focus more on referrals and marketing materials:
- Are partners logging in frequently?
- Are partners finding the marketing materials they can pass on to their customers?
- Are partners actively engaging in training and education programs?
- Are partners referring new deals?
Any changes in these metrics can be a leading indicator of a deeper problem:
- Do my partners not understand how to access the platform?
- Do they not understand the benefit of the content we’re providing?
- Is the process for registering a deal too complicated?
- Are we engaging the right kind of partners?
Keep Everyone In The Loop
One big mistake I see over and over again is not connecting with all the stakeholders in your organization. I don’t see a lot of people communicating as a team to understand what’s beneficial for each one of them and what that journey looks like through the whole pipeline.
For example, if you’re a marketing manager starting an MDF program, and you’re not connecting with your channel sales team to understand what value they could leverage in a partner program, it’s a huge miss. I see it over and over again – there’s a champion in one department, and someone on the other team finds out they have this tool and ask, “Well, where was I?”
Luckily, though, our customer success team at Allbound is here to lend a hand. We ask who else is on the team there, and about their org structure, so we can understand if there’s any other kind of value we could bring to the group. We help you make sure the tools and programs are applicable to your whole organization, since the more people who are using the tool, the stickier it becomes.
Put Your Partners’ Success First
Treating your partners like they’re an extension of the team is critical because they’re directly tied to the success of your partner program and your business. Supporting and trusting your partners and making them feel like they’re part of the team is a huge differentiator between successful partner programs and non-successful ones.
Typically sales reps in the past have been used to turning and burning – after closing a deal, it goes off to an implementation stage-managed by an account owner. Partner program managers, on the other hand, don’t get to turn and burn – they have to continuously stay in contact with that partner to make sure they’re moving the needle.
It’s something I’m seeing become more relevant for the industry – people are catching on that making their partners successful mean that they’ll be successful as a result. They’re starting to learn that they need customer success measures to consistently engage this person – making sure they’re happy, gathering feedback, providing them with the right materials and training to make sure they’re armed and ready to go out there and do their best.
The best programs have a full onboarding experience for their partners – they provide training on how to find and use marketing materials, full instructions for registering deals – even a dedicated support team for partners. They totally arm their sales partners to do their best work, empowering them and helping them feel good about what they’re doing. It’s a very customer-centric approach – there are so many good things in that.