Keeping up partnership engagement is a bit like gardening. Just like you wouldn’t water your plants a few times and call the job complete, setting your partners up for success doesn’t end with a 30-60-90 day onboarding process.
To bear fruit, ongoing nurturing is needed. The importance of progressive support and a long-term channel sales partner engagement strategy cannot be overstated. That’s where the magic of partnership everboarding comes in.
We’ll dig into this foundational way of supporting partners, from what exactly everboarding looks like to getting started to measuring outcomes.
What Is Everboarding?
Everboarding is an approach to onboarding that views it as a continuous process with no endpoint. It’s making continuing education part of the life cycle.
A partner may have been with you for months, years even, but their training is never really over. There are always new things to learn and new ways to improve.
We talked to Dan O’Leary, Director of Partnerships at Box, on our podcast about what everboarding means in his experience and why it’s so important.
“It’s this concept that onboarding never stops,” O’Leary explained.
Why does everboarding even matter, though? Why do it in the first place?
Similarly to traditional onboarding, it sets up a foundation for an engaged, empowered partnership ecosystem. That helps both with recruiting and retaining top partners, as well as sets them up for success.
By moving towards an everboarding approach, you reap all the benefits of a strong onboarding and training process but over the long term. There will be fewer gaps in knowledge and better retention of knowledge because the learning is a continuous cycle.
And by offering ongoing support for partners, they know with certainty that they are never selling alone – they have all the tools, information and backing needed to exceed targets. Plus, it’s an absolute must for partnership engagement.
Why Partnership Engagement Starts With Everboarding
Engagement is one of the most important pieces of a successful partnership – it’s truly foundational to collaboration and a mutually beneficial relationship.
While sales and revenue top the list of KPIs, engagement is a leading indicator of success long before any deals close. That’s because engaged partners better understand your product or service, are more invested in your business and are better equipped to make a sale.
“If you want to create great, long-term, enduring, valuable partnerships that create great customer outcomes over time … you have to understand that the [onboarding] experience doesn’t end 90 days after they sign the contract or after their first deal,” said O’Leary.
Everboarding isn’t just a long-term approach to onboarding. It also touches on the other ways of supporting your partners, including through further training, incentives, co-selling and co-marketing initiatives and other growth opportunities.
Nuts & Bolts of an Everboarding Strategy That Activates Partners
Everboarding can be broken down into two general camps: the getting started or “-boarding” piece when partners first join your business and the “ever-” component that lasts the duration of your relationship.
Regardless of which stage you are at – which, unless you are building your channel partner program from scratch, will differ from partner to partner – making sure to meet your partners where they are at is one of the most important aspects of any support program.
Open lines of communication and the ability for partners to share their honest feedback is key to getting this part right. This could be achieved through:
Regular check-ins and face-to-face meetings (virtual is fine!)
Frequent partner satisfaction surveys that include opened-ended questions
Workshops or brainstorming sessions to identify common goals, a joint value proposition and opportunities to better collaborate such as through co-marketing initiatives
Onboarding & Sales Enablement For the Long-Term
The onboarding stage is the easiest place to start with an everboarding strategy – begin at the beginning, so to say. There are many different approaches to effectively onboard partners but, across the board, the most critical piece is to provide consistent value.
Giving partners a reason to engage with your onboarding content and training modules is the most powerful way of getting them to actually learn what you’re trying to convey. It’s a lesson O’Leary has come across in his career.
“As a former head of partner enablement, I mistakenly believed that if you built a great partner portal that they would come auto-magically – just show up and hang out,” he said.
“That’s actually not the case. You need to give them a reason to come hang out with you and to do it consistently. On a weekly or monthly or maybe even daily basis.”
The value you provide through a thoughtful, long-term minded onboarding process is part knowing what your partner needs, when they need it, and part delivering actionable tools.
Everboarding Content and Training Modules
Don’t overwhelm new partners with every small detail about your business. With an everboarding approach, you have time to take it step-by-step and break down your learning tracks into easily digestible pieces.
This is a good starting point for how to approach the initial stages of everboarding:
- Understand your partner’s goals and challenges
- Provide user-friendly and accessible training
- Organize your content library into curated learning tracks
- Quiz partners on the material they are covering for improved retention
- Make it easy to refer back to previously viewed onboarding materials
- Track completion and engagement rates to find opportunities for optimization
But that’s just the beginning. If the learning tracks and training stops after 90 days, or any set time period, it’s simply onboarding. To take it to that next level of everboarding, the support and value you offer has to span the entire partner journey.
What does this look like? It can vary partner program to partner program but will include elements such as:
- Product demo videos
- Battlecards comparing your product to competitors
- Customer testimonials and reviews
- Buyer personas
- Use case examples
- Holistic partner playbooks
- Cheat sheets
- Partner newsletters
- PowerPoint decks
- Price books
- Quarterly roadmaps
- Live classes and demos
These are just some possible examples of material you can create to underpin a sequential, organized training program. None of these pieces are standalone, so it’s important to consider how each part of your everboarding process fits into the larger picture.
Partner Segmentation for Personalized Experience
Think about the overall partner journey with you and what pieces are needed to provide value at each stage from enablement to incentives to recognition. This is also where partner segmentation and grouping is key. Who exactly is your target audience? What are their priorities and pain points?
Use that information to tailor your support to their specific needs. Not only will this make your content that much more engaging, providing real-time value improves your partner’s chances of success – which is good for both of you, after all.
Creating a customized everboarding experience may seem daunting. It doesn’t mean returning to the drawing board and starting fresh for each partner grouping, however. If you have a variety of content types that span different stages of the partner’s journey, you likely have everything you need for a more personalized and supportive strategy.
Using a PRM system to automate aspects of your program allows you to create a tailored experience, as O’Leary found.
“One of the reasons that Allbound has been such a value driver for us – and it should be for other partner leaders – is that we can customize that [everboarding] experience based on who the person is, what role they’re in and what persona they’re in,” he said.
“A first time salesperson has a very different need than a senior solutions architect or developer. We can create journeys that meet the needs of both by really just using the same set of content that we then stack and allocate in a certain way. And that’s kind of magical.”
Is Your Everboarding Working? Measuring Partnership Engagement & Success
You’ve got all the pieces in place for great everyboarding … but how do you know if it’s actually working?
Much like other areas of your partner program, measuring both qualitative and quantitative data against benchmarks is key. Without this information, it’s almost impossible to identify areas of opportunity and optimize your efforts.
With everboarding in particular, there are a few angles to think about because of how it spans the entire partner journey.
On the one hand, there are some channel performance KPIs that simply can’t be ignored. That includes measurements around leads, deals closed, sales value and other revenue-related metrics.
On the other hand, partner engagement is a leading indicator of success. A partner who is feeling supported, motivated and inspired will be much better prepared to then delight the customer and deliver a great outcome.
“How would you measure partner engagement? It’s not just clicks onto a PRM or leads submitted,” said O’Leary.
“It’s actually how they show up, how they feel about your company, how they are representing you, your products, or services, your cultural values, and your team. Those are the things that are critical.”
Look at the data, but also talk to your partners. Find out how they are feeling, what is working for them and where they need additional support. That’s ultimately how you keep partners at the heart of your program.
Everboarding That Creates an Exceptional Partner Experience
At the end of the day, helping your partners be successful ultimately fuels your own success.
That means supporting them throughout each stage of the selling journey with you from deal registrations to sales presentations, making sure you are the easiest and prefered partner to work with. A standout partner experience is rapidly becoming a must in the competitive partnership landscape.
“The attention of our partners is so precious and it’s so finite, and we’re just competing with so many other folks who want their same time and attention,” said O’Leary.
“We owe it to them to give them the most value we can, that’s the most tailored for their needs.”
Part of that comes from offering the right training materials and marketing content – at the right time – to enable and empower your partners. It should be personalized to where they are at and consistently provided.
What does that look like? Break it up into each stage of everboarding life cycle, such as:
- Training phase → videos, one-sheeters, brand messaging guidelines, product demos
- Sales enablement phase → case studies, sales decks, competitor battle cards
- Co-branding and co-selling phase → events, webinars, social media campaigns
No matter what piece of content you are offering, it’s important to make it part of the bigger picture.
“Most importantly, tie [your content] into the customer experience we want to create so that our partners are set up and enabled and empowered,” said O’Leary.
“You really have to make sure that the positive partner experience is connected to the goals of your customer experience. If you do that then true magic can happen.”
Additional Resources for Partner-Led Everboarding
How to Shift Into a Partner-Led Sales Strategy – Partnerships are a powerful tool to lower customer acquisition costs and drive healthy sales. In this comprehensive guide, we cover exactly what it means to be “partner-first” and how to adopt this mindset at your organization.
Onboarding Done Right To Create An Engaged Partner Community – An engaged partner community starts with the right approach to onboarding, setting partners up for success. Here’s how to make sure you’re giving them the right support and information right from the start.
Optimize These Parts of Your Channel Sales Operations – Are you keeping partner operations front and center? It’s becoming an increasingly important part of channel sales as programs mature and expectations from partners themselves grow. Learn more about how to successfully operationalize partnerships.
Shortening the Sales Cycle By Prioritizing Partnerships – We’ve seen customers achieve a 61% shorter channel sales cycle on average through partnerships and a PRM. Here’s how they, and you, can speed up the sales cycle by leveraging the strengths and resources of your partners.
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