A partner portal can be a powerful resource to achieve key growth goals and drive company revenue. Your partner portal provides a bridge between your team and your partners, enabling them to sell more efficiently and effectively.
Today, SaaS partner portals make it easy to manage your channel, house resources, and communicate cross-functionally. There are a few best practices you’ll want to look out for when selecting a partner portal tool and essential design elements to incorporate.
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What Features Should You Look for in a Partner Portal Design?
The partner portal design you implement should be intuitive for your team and your partners to use. After all, it is, above all else, a communication tool; if the layout is cumbersome or incomplete, the message is lost.
First, you want to ensure the platform you choose provides the ability to segment partners into differing groups and automate their access to materials. It should also be set up to house all your marketing and sales materials and provide the ability for your partners to co-brand those different resources. Additionally, your portal should allow partners to submit and track MDF requests.
Along with storing marketing content, the best partner portal designs also enable marketing automation, sending out key resources to partners based on a pre-determined set of qualifying signals. Similarly, your portal should integrate with your CRM and other elements of your existing technology stack, ensuring your data sets can talk to each other.
The best portals make it easy for you and your partners to render attractive reporting. It should also simplify partner onboarding practices, making it easier to set your partners up for success and continue supporting them over time.
In short, your partner portal should:
Give you the ability to group or tier partners.
Give partners the freedom to independently access materials.
Give partners the right content based on their partner type, industry, geography, and more.
Integrate with your CRM for a fully-functional tech stack.
Allow partners to request MDFs (and track MDF success).
Have comprehensive tracking regarding success of partners and their actions within the portal.
Automate onboarding and training.
What Design Features Are Best Practice for Your Partner Portal?
Partner Portal design best practices are best described as functional or visual. Both are equally important to crafting a partner portal that will excite and retain program participants:
Functional design best practices.
- Dashboard homepage content widgets recommending materials specific to the partner and enabling personalized pinning.
Your partner portal should include a space to house all of your partner content in one, easy-to-access place. Easy-to-access is key here. Your chosen portal design should emphasize new or popular content so partners know exactly where to click, while automatically excluding any news that is irrelevant to their specific situation. Similarly, partners should be able to pin the materials they like to their homepage experience so they can conveniently access it time and time again.
- Search bar to enable alternative methods of accessing content or platform functions.
No matter how intuitive your layout and navigation may be, there will always be users who prefer the search bar. This partner portal best practice will become increasingly necessary as your content library grows.
- Behavior-triggered pop-ups guiding partners towards where to next click.
At no point should dashboard users feel like they hit a dead-end in their training or think “what now?” There are many ways you can help guide them, such as multi-step trainings that reference one another. However, a behavior-driven pop-up is the best way to point them towards the next stage of their development. Did they pass a training quiz? Point them towards the next training they should attempt. Did they just create a prospect page? Point them towards helpful sales playbooks.
- Tagging-based organizational systems built with scalability in mind.
It’s much easier to sort ten articles than 100. It’s also much easier to maintain an existing system of organization as you slowly accumulate more content rather than add it retroactively. Create internal best practices in which every piece uploaded to the partner portal needs to be tagged by consistent themes and audience (and make sure that these are standardized).
- Automated content and features curation based on partner classifications.
A partner management best practice is to serve portal users with only the assets they need rather than all the materials. Your PRM should use the above-mentioned content tagging to automatically display content and portal capabilities that apply directly to the user (determined through custom settings you control). This way, partners aren’t sifting through materials in different languages or trying to access portal tools they’re not yet authorized to use.
- Well-designed prospect pages that live directly within the partner portal.
Having prospect pages accessible from the portal opens a lot of possibilities. Firstly, you’re able to ensure that your partners put their best foot forward by using a first-rate page design rather than an underwhelming email. Additionally, your portal can automatically suggest which assets to share based on information included within the deal registration process. Lastly, your portal can automatically track which sales enablement assets were used in won (and lost) deals, helping you further refine your practices based on concrete data.
Visual design best practices.
- Ability to brand the portal to visually represent your company.
Even though you may employ externally built software, your partner dashboard should 100% reflect you. Choose a software that lets you design the portal to match your brand’s colors and spotlights your logo. This should extend to your single sign-on page.
- Overall professional aesthetic to attract partners and better serve prospective customers.
Your channel portal can be a powerful partner recruitment tool, as it reflects your high standards and general care about their experience. Similarly, the prospect pages partners build within the portal should be attractive enough to make a strong first-impression on potential customers.
- Display cards for each asset
A list of text-based links will fail to capture a user’s attention the same way a visually enhanced graphic would. Therefore, choose a partner portal design that pairs each library item with its own title card for increased interaction levels.
Additional Best Practices Your Partner Portal Should Include?
Your portal should include resources for training and onboarding your partners. These should make it easy for your partners to get up and running quickly. It’s a great idea to include quizzes and a gamification system to encourage partner reps to complete training. Your partner portal should also include all marketing materials and sales resources your partners may need.
The portal should include easy access to your internal team. Make sure users can contact you via the portal, submit requests, and find the right person on your team if they require additional support.
Training and onboarding resources
The ability for partners to independently go through training
A link to your internal team
The Downsides of Designing Your Own Partner Portal
Designing your own partner portal is time-consuming and requires a lot of upkeep to maintain. It often takes months to set up a partner portal internally, followed by more months of testing. Once your portal is developed, you then have to take on the responsibility of training your team and populating the portal. Frequently, it could take over a year to get your team and partners enabled and using the portal. And, once live, it’s on you to collect user feedback and A/B test design choices to ensure the best experience possible.
A homegrown portal could potentially be cheaper to set up than a ready-made solution. However, you need to keep in mind the ongoing cost of upkeep. There are tons of employee hours that go into not just creating the portal, but also maintaining it and contacting experts when issues arise.
When you use a SaaS partner portal solution, you’re able to rely on their support team to help you train your team, solve issues, overcome obstacles, and set up a solution that works best for your ecosystem. So while a PRM may appear more expensive up front, you’ll end up saving in the long run.
Last but not least, software companies that focus exclusively on PRM development (like Allbound) regularly release new capabilities in response to user needs and industry best practices. Realistically, most internally designed partner portals will fail to do the same, having them fall behind competitors’ solutions within a year or two.
In short, the downsides to designing your own portal are:
- It may be time-consuming to stand up.
- The cost of maintenance.
- You may have to hire new employees to keep up with the portal.
- You don’t have a support team for unforeseen issues.
- Your team may be inexperienced in building a portal.
- Your team is unlikely to regularly update the portal to reflect industry best practices.
Partner Portal Design Best Practices
Partner portals should make it easy for you to manage and scale your partner program. The best portals are easy to use and navigate, with key features designed to make your partnerships more efficient. Your portal can be a powerful sales tool — make sure it’s branded, simple to navigate, and loaded with helpful resources for your partners.
Allbound ranks #1 in G2Crowd Summer Mid-Market Grid® for partner relationship management. Request a demo to see how Allbound can help you drive engagement, share powerful resources with your partners, and grow your channel.
Read More About Partner Program Technology & Best Practices
Ultimately, your partner portal design and underlying software can make-or-break your program. Invest in the right technology, and you’ll see partner recruitment, retention, and profitability receive boosts. Fail to do so, and expect such metrics to backslide as competitors doubledown on their partner programs. We suggest the following articles to help you make informed decisions about your partner portal:
- PRM vs CRM – Why One is Infinitely Better for Channel Sales – A common mistake newer partner programs make is to track partner leads using their CRM. Unfortunately, because it is not specifically designed to serve as a portal for partners, this doesn’t align with general best practices and results in missed opportunities to improve the program experience. Learn about key differences between the two types of software and how they can seamlessly integrate.
- What is PRM – How to Define Partner Relationship Management – This article breaks down what is (and isn’t) a PRM. Learn about what features are essential and the many benefits it can yield for your program.
- 20 Necessary Tools to Enable Channel Partners to Sell – A well-designed partner portal is foundational to your program’s success, but it isn’t the tool you should consider layering into your tech stack. Find specific software recommendations that further enable you to support your partners.
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