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We can often learn a lot by taking a look at how another company operates its channel partner program. That program can be in a similar industry to our own, or something completely different, because every channel partner program shares the common goal of reaching out to a wider prospect base than would otherwise be possible without the channel. In this case, we’ll take a closer look at Microsoft’s and highlight their best practices.
Leverage New Technologies to Attract and Manage Partners
This is two-fold. Technology can be new product offerings that you can use to draw in clients that were previously unsure of your brand. But maybe even more importantly, technology in the form of tools that you use to manage with partners.
Promoting new product technology is a fairly mainstream best practices these days. A new feature or option becomes available, and you focus part of your marketing efforts on making sure that existing and prospective customers are aware of the addition. For some this is the nudge that is needed to finally draw up a deal. For others, this solidifies their decision to renew a contract.
On the other hand, using technology to collaborate with your channel partners can be less straightforward. Yes, there’s email and text messaging, but what about file sharing? With a powerful PRM software platform to not just communicate, but collaborate with your partners in the channel, you can keep everyone up to date, and make sure that they’ve all got the latest marketing materials. If something needs to be updated, no more worrying that an email will get overlooked. Just update the files in the cloud.
Be Creative to Stay Competitive
Just because something hasn’t been done before, doesn’t mean it can’t ever be done. A best practice heavily emphasized by Microsoft’s channel partner program has been to introduce creative implementations of existing technology; adapting the product to suit the customer’s needs, so to speak. This way, the customer gets exactly what he or she needs, instead of having to fit into a box that is predefined by Microsoft and its channel partners.
Creativity also manifests in Microsoft’s channel partner program when two or more build a partnership that fills a void or provides services which are complementary to existing offerings. This comes both in the form of innovation and reaction to business need. If partners notice that there is a need, or an opportunity, they collaborate to form a solution that can be successfully offered along with the existing products.
Continuously Analyze Customer Satisfaction to Evaluate Practices
All members of Microsoft’s channel partner program examine the satisfaction of their customers quite often to make sure that they provide the expected level of service. This allows them to react to any trends and make sure that their clients are not unhappy over any small and resolvable issues.
Customer satisfaction needs to be measured on an ongoing basis. Ideally, this should be done often, such as at the close of every project or even after each touch point. Cull the data, monitor for key trends, and form an action plan to keep your customers as happy as possible.
This also affords you the opportunity to ask for customer references. Any satisfied consumer is usually quite willing to provide additional references which can turn into more business.
While Microsoft’s channel partner program is only one of many such strategic partnerships, it is a diverse and robust program. These best practices can easily be adapted to your own partner management even if you operate in a different industry or lack the size of Microsoft.