When discussing building a partner program, much of the focus is on the recruitment process. However, all the effort it takes to attract and vet partners is nullified if they tend not to stick around for long. On the other hand, a loyal partner can become a valuable collaborator, co-marketer, and ongoing source of revenue.
It’s essential that you lay the groundwork for a meaningful, two-way relationship from day one, and that you don’t neglect program participants as they become increasingly self-sufficient. This article will explore when and how you can effectively foster loyalty amongst channel partners, as well as how to measure the results.
Steps to Nurturing Loyalty Amongst New Channel Partners
You wouldn’t tackle heaps of dirty laundry with a washing board and wringer anymore. You wouldn’t try to binge-watch a TV show on dial-up. Are you still using outdated tools for onboarding and managing your partners? Old, disjointed processes just won’t cut it in today’s increasingly complex B2B sales cycle. Next-generation, cloud-based PRM solutions can provide an engaging and completely synchronized experience you need to onboard, educate and empower partners.
Partners deserve a very warm welcome
Laying groundwork needs to start early – well before partners begin selling for you. First impressions count, big time. Why should partners work with your company? There are so many other options out there. Make the choice easy by painting them a vibrant picture of the benefits of working with you and the successes you could find together. Once you’ve hooked them with that vision, make sealing the deal streamlined by automating the application process. New partners will be excited to get started. Don’t let paperwork hold them back.
Everyone loves a warm welcome. Once they’ve signed, make an effort to show the partner you are excited about your budding relationship. Think about scheduling an executive kick-off call, where you can share enthusiasm and build momentum, as well as answer any questions. That one-on-one time is invaluable. Another great option is to send a channel partner welcome kit, filled with useful and inspiring information.
Where to go next? Introduce them to the space and content dedicated to them through your PRM platform. This customized support base demonstrates your commitment to them and makes them feel like part of the family.
Keep that spark alive
Don’t let that warm welcome cool. Continuing that support as the relationship progresses illustrates everything you promised during onboarding wasn’t just lip service. Having a modern partner portal design lets your partners know that you’re the real deal. It demonstrates that you care about your partners, their processes, their milestones, and the customers they attract.
How can you encourage growth? Goal-setting not only sets out a process path for partners, but can be a great inspiration for them. A sure-fire strategy is to create a document that outlines what partners should try to tackle in the first 30, 60, and 90 days and beyond. It sets priorities in stone and will help motivate and channel energies.
Throughout the cycle, you should empower partners by providing them co-branded content and marketing collateral, plus playbooks on just when and how to use it. By supporting partners through each phase of the sales cycle, you facilitate engagement and loyalty. That’s important, considering they may be selling for multiple vendors. Make your mark by being the easiest and most supportive one they deal with.
Strategies to Build Long-Term Relationships With Partners
Find the right tools to help partnerships grow
Onboarding and continued, proactive support of partners can’t be done with disjointed, outdated methods. Next-generation cloud-based tools make these onboarding and enablement processes automated and streamlined without feeling too tech-heavy. You can welcome partners, equip them and empower them to excel – without losing that personalization that’s so important to relationship building.
You want your new partners to succeed. They want to succeed – that’s what they signed up for. Let a PRM platform take away the heavy lifting, making it simple for you to cultivate a healthy and successful crop of partnerships.
Reward partners appropriately based on their contributions
Not all partners will have the same earning potential, so don’t treat the big earners the same as everyone else. Find a channel commission structure that aligns with your product and finances, as well as motivates partners to strive for the next level of achievement.
Consider other ways to make your prized partners feel appreciated. This could mean offering them exclusive rights to certain regions, promoting their business across your social media channels, or making them a distributor who manages other channel partner relationships on your behalf.
Create communications with substance
One of the many benefits of a channel partner portal is that it automates the exchange of information, freeing up time. No longer do you have to fulfill one-off co-branding requests, help partners locate sales materials, or ask about pipeline status.
However, this doesn’t mean you should lessen communication with partners. Instead, you can refocus talking points around their satisfaction, strategic ideas, audience insights, etc. Remember to ask your partners questions rather than just dictate to them. Their insights may shed light on opportunities for improvement. Regardless, your respect for their perspectives will help build loyalty.
How to Measure Partner Loyalty
One of the most enduring and contended challenges for organizations with indirect sales channels is the data and metrics used to measure channel performance. What metrics really matter? What don’t? Which vendors do we believe? And, is this really so complex that we need a scientist to make it meaningful?
Most channel managers know to measure KPIs like generated leads, completed deals. However, this fails to paint a full picture of your partner program and, more specifically, participant loyalty and engagement. Therefore, choose a PRM that enables you to track most of the following:
- Portal login frequency
- Training starts and completions
- Content engagement
- MDF utilization and outcome
- Prospect page activity from both partners and potential customers
- Competition participation
Outside of the portal, take notes about the quality of your one-on-one interactions. Are your partners coming to the table with fresh ideas and thoughtful inquiries, or are they asking questions that should have easily been answered within your PRM? Worse yet, are they failing to show up at all?
All of the above will help you predict a particular partners’ loyalty and your overall program’s churn rate. With this knowledge, you can take preemptive actions to reengage individuals or create channel-wide initiatives. Perhaps this means new co-marketing opportunities, commission restructuring, a sales competition, or increased training to further convey value.
Base your loyalty-building strategy based on the data you collected; if content engagement from seasoned partners is rapidly dwindling, this is a telltale sign you need new materials. If a SPIFF campaign had lower participation than previous years, you may need to change the benchmarks or incentives.
If you make it impossible for partners to ignore you, increased engagement will result in the perfect trifecta for success: increased sales, partner loyalty and overall customer satisfaction. Shifting your focus from management and control to collaboration and empowerment can put your organization on the fast track to turning lukewarm partners into loyal assets.