Imagine that your partner program is like a car— your channel manager is the driver behind the wheel, your PRM software is the vehicle’s frame, and your partners are the tires that propel you forward. But what would be the gas that keeps the car operational? Your content strategy, of course.
Without proper content, you cannot properly train your partners. Nor could they communicate effectively with sales prospects. And, much like a depleting gas tank, the effectiveness of older content may deliver diminishing returns if you fail to update it on a regular basis.
To keep your partner program’s content strategy invigorated and forward-thinking for years to come, keep in mind the following fundamentals and ideas.
Every Piece of Content Should Have a Clearly Defined Goal and Complete Strategy
Though this partner content sentiment may seem obvious, it’s far too often overlooked. How many times have you had a piece flop? Or, worse, how many times has the team labored over content only to forget about it post-publishing? Regard each piece as an individual strategy, complete with measurable goals. Don’t kick off any partner content initiative until you can answer the following:
- Who is the intended audience?
- What is the optimal medium, and why?
- What value will you bring to the audience, and why?
- How will you generate awareness of the piece?
- What is the content’s ultimate goal?
Don’t neglect to answer the “and why” portion of the questions above. The more you can defend your choices with third-party research or historic data, the better. For example:
- Our portal data suggests that partners prefer to interact with videos more than other content types
- Our primary competitor is seeing great success with their blog post about (insert theme) and we hope to receive similar SEO visibility
- We have yet to test out the effectiveness of battle cards; with the creation and promotion of this resource, we can gain new insights into our partners’ and prospects’ preferences.
All decisions should directly correlate with the answer to the fifth question, what is the content’s ultimate goal. After all, the topic, medium, and promotion strategy of a piece intended to raise brand awareness should significantly differ from one that aims to generate leads.
Ensure You Have Content For ALL Partners and ALL Stages of Their Journeys
The importance of accommodating partners’ specific needs
As your partner program grows, so will the type of partners you engage. They may hail from different countries, industries, specialties, and company sizes. A sound partner content strategy should ensure no prioritized group of partners is alienated by your program.
By crafting content that speaks directly to specific user groups, you make the channel onboarding process more effective and nurture increased partner engagement. Just make sure that your portal lets you automatically grant partners access solely to the content that pertains to their needs.
The importance of accommodating later stages of the partner journey
Yes, we listed “later” prior to “earlier,” and for a good reason, too. A common mistake partner managers make is to create a robust onboarding experience but then failing to serve partners post-activation. As a result, partners have less reason to frequently sign into the portal, causing them to disengage. Seasoned partners should find value in your program’s content, even if they’re not currently working on closing a deal. Examples of strategic content that could appeal to them include:
- Industry insights and best practices. Did you recently conduct an interesting study or create an in-depth guide? Perhaps a new training that helps with general skill sets? Consider granting your partners early access as a perk of collaborating with you. This demonstrates the full value of your program by offering content that speaks directly to their everyday goals rather than focusing exclusively on your products.
- Exclusive networking opportunities. Does a digital happy hour count as “content?” We’re inclined to say no, but this idea is too important to exclude. Similar to the above, opportunities to connect with others grant partners added value beyond the potential of revenue.
- Motivating content that demonstrates success is possible. Craft case studies and partner spotlights that show others that your strategies work. Pin these to the homepage of your program’s portal and include them in a partner-focused newsletter.
The importance of accommodating earlier stages of the partner journey
Of course, your content for activated partners will mean nothing if you can’t successfully progress partners to this stage. Therefore it’s important to have a well-informed content strategy for prospective and new partners. Keep the following in the mind:
- How will you recruit new partners? Will you execute a social media strategy? Create a page on your site? These are all examples of pivotal partner content that impacts the success of your program. Make sure your content addresses partners’ primary concerns and consider the unique value you provide compared to competitors. To read more ideas, Building a Channel Partner Recruitment Plan.
- How will you present and organize content so it’s digestible? The onboarding process should not hit new partners like a tsunami. Instead, guide them through the experience a few pieces of content at a time. Organize training content into sequences and eliminate access to irrelevant materials. Your PRM can help you scale both efforts, as well as automate content access based on the partners’ specific platform engagement.
Is there anything missing from your program’s onboarding? There are a number of ways to figure this out. For example, track the questions onboarding partners frequently ask. Similarly, use quizzes to test partners’ understanding of lessons; if there is a concerning fail-rate or partners stumble over the same question, this is a red flag that you may need to update or add content.
Ensure You Have Sales Enablement Content for ALL Stages of the Buyer Journey
The buyer journey for acquiring software is much more lengthy and involved than picking a loaf of bread at the store. Make sure you equip your partners with content solutions that strategically address each stage. While the nuances of the experience may vary, the broad strokes of your funnel may resemble the following:
Leveraging partners to add new prospects to the top of the funnel:
Select channel partners can play active roles in your promotion strategy. They can become co-creators of materials, joint-hosts of event booths, or even take the lead to run their own campaigns for your products packaged with theirs. To further encourage their efforts, you can award marketing development funds to top-performers. For additional ideas, check out The Quick Guide to Co-Marketing with Your Channel Partners.
Crafting strategic content to guide partners through sales conversations:
Even the most attentive partner won’t know your products and brand as well as you do. Give them strategic playbooks and other sales enablement content to help them confidently represent your offering. These could include:
- Sales scripts
- Product sheets
- Case studies
- Powerpoint presentations
- Communication templates
- Demonstration videos
Make sure it’s clear to partners when they should utilize and, more importantly, with whom. If you create a one-sheet product explanation targeting the priorities of the IT team, it will have little impact on a CMO.
Consult with your Direct Sales team about the questions they frequently receive from prospects, and do your due diligence to arm partners with content that clearly states the answers. Similarly, ask them about which types of strategic content they consider to be most effective, and why.
Make co-branding materials easy to prevent delaying sales conversations
The option to co-brand content is a powerful tool. Not only does it add a touch of professionalism to the shared materials, but partners are more motivated to share documents that display their logo right next to yours. Use a PRM with a co-branding feature so your partners can reap the benefits without any of the downsides or risks.
Allbound lets you pre-determine which program content select partner groups can co-brand, as well as the guidelines they must follow. This frees them up to finalize materials without your direct involvement while safeguarding brand consistency across different partners.
Regularly Audit Your Sales Enablement and Partner Engagement Content to Strengthen Your Program’s Strategies
So far, we’ve discussed mapping content to the targeted readers and the specific moments at which it’s the most impactful. However, all these partner content assumptions are based on hypotheses until you verify your strategies with quantifiable data.
You can learn more about measuring your content’s impact on sales with our article Auditing Your B2B Sales Funnel – Recommended Process and Tips. However, to summarize key points:
- There are important KPIs you must track, including lead quantity, lead quality, lead velocity, and conversion rate.
- Choose a PRM like Allbound which measures the number of times content assists with sales interactions and conversions.
- Measure the above data against different partner groups and prospect types to discern which content works best with which users.
- Use these insights to improve your content library and update your sales enablement playbooks.
One important caveat: remember how we suggested that you map each piece of partner content to a strategic goal? This will influence how you read the data. For example, if you generate a strong readership for marketing-driven content but no conversions, this isn’t a failure because the piece accomplished its primary purpose. However, if you have conversion-oriented content that delivers the same results (strong readership but no generated leads), you know the piece isn’t your strongest.
Collect Qualitative Insights For Your Program’s Content Directly From Partners
Your partners are the ones learning directly from your training and leveraging the sales enablement content in their sales conversations. So why not ask them what they like and what is missing?
Make this a main point of conversation in your regular meetings and utilize surveys to hear their input at scale. This will not only lead to improvements in your program’s content strategies but also reassures partners that you value their opinions.
Your Choice in PRM Influences Your Partner Content’s Success
The right PRM delivers content to the right audience at the right time. Better yet, you can systemize this process so it can happen for partners at scale, in real-time. Not convinced? Allbound makes it possible to do the following:
- Serve targeted content to exclusive groups rather than everyone
- Direct partners to the most applicable content based on their past actions
- Promote new materials on the homepage, as well as let partners pin their favorites
- Immediately locate content using the in-platform search bar
- Suggest playbooks based on prospects’ unique needs and interactions
- Have partners serve content to potential customers through attractive prospect pages
- Track content interactions from partners and prospects at both macro and micro-levels
- Visualize data for easy interpretation and sharing
Other Miscellaneous Tips to Strengthen Your Program’s Partner Content
- Favor brevity over length, with few exceptions. Each word should bring new value; if you can convey the same message in both 500 words and 250, aim for the latter.
- Don’t serve content that is more than three years old. The technology industry is fast-moving, so your messaging better keep up. Even if the dated strategies still apply all these years later, readers will be cautious of trusting the provided advice.
- Don’t be afraid to ax what’s not working.
- Take advantage of Direct Sales data and strategic insights. This not only applies to any data the team may collect, but also their general wisdom. If your sales enablement content fails to help partners close deals, the fresh-yet-experienced eyes of the Direct Sales team could offer fresh theories as to why.
- It’s impossible to undervalue the importance of visual presentation.
- Don’t be afraid of failure, as long as you learn in the process. Henry Ford is often quoted as saying “The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing.” Take this sentiment to heart, and don’t be afraid to wander from the tried-and-true path. You may just happen to stumble onto greatness!
How does PRM work within a complex partner ecosystem?
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.
Ali Spiric leads Allbound’s content marketing to cultivate awareness for the ultimate PRM solution. Ali is a digital marketer that thrives in the B2B space.
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