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The Ultimate Guide to Channel Partner Engagement Strategies

You were super excited about a new partnership when it first started, and it seemed like your partner was too. But now they haven’t responded to your emails, your last few check-in meetings were canceled, and the meetings before that had no updates. What looked like a promising partnership has all but fizzled out — what gives?

Keeping partners engaged is imperative to a successful — and mutually beneficial — partnership. When your partners begin to disengage, it’s a sign that there is likely a larger underlying problem. 

This comprehensive guide will help you diagnose sources of engagement problems and understand the strategies you can implement to solve them.

The ROI of Keeping Partners Engaged

SaaS companies are likely already familiar with the value of retaining customers, but it’s worth noting within the context of partnerships as well. As with sales, recruiting, training, and onboarding new partners takes time and resources from your team. Meanwhile, fostering existing partnerships can enable an expanded scope, larger deals, and more sales.

The longer you work with partners, the better you’ll both grow to know each other’s business. In turn, you will work together more effectively and identify key opportunities for collaboration.

Where Partners Fall Off — And Why

There are a few common points within the partner cycle that partners tend to fall off. Identifying these friction areas and working to make them more seamless for partners can help increase your retention rate. Additionally, being aware of when partners may fall off allows you to spend more time and energy keeping them engaged before they start drifting away.

Onboarding

Onboarding shouldn’t be a pain for your partners (or your team!). Streamline processes and develop checklists, documentation, and videos to share with partners in addition to any meetings you may have.

Set clear expectations upfront. Help your partners understand what you’re looking to accomplish, what you need from them, and how they’ll benefit. 

Check in regularly throughout onboarding so your partner knows they’re not alone. Make yourself available to answer questions and provide insights where you can. Reach out proactively to share advice and helpful resources when possible.

Most importantly, don’t leave your partners wondering what’s in it for them. Be upfront about your shared goals, how you can work together to reach them. If you sense growing disinterest within your partner, revisit your shared goals and adjust accordingly.

Training

Similar to onboarding, it should be easy for your partners to train their teams about your tool and its benefits to users. Enable your partners early with helpful resources, insights from other partners you’ve worked with, and access to your team and partner management software.

Case studies, white papers, and surveys with hard data can all be beneficial for understanding your unique value proposition.

Whether you provide video demos or training documentation, make sure training is concise. Rather than overwhelm participants with long training sessions, divide learnings into multiple courses. Your portal can direct users to the next lesson based on the completion of prerequisite exercises.

Turn to your early partners for feedback on your processes and adjust accordingly. Which areas were confusing for them? Where would they have appreciated a little more help? Take this into account when training future partners.

After Six Months

Successful partnerships must be built on mutual goals and prospect alignment. Even with these, the most perfect partnerships can peter out in six months if there aren’t any wins early on.

If you don’t want your partner to disengage, stay in contact with them. Celebrate each accomplishment, big or small, with your partner and internal team. Share new prospects with the team and send out emails or announcements for more substantial achievements. In addition to the news, share what the win means for both of your teams.

Remember to give in order to get. Many partners expect to see benefits for them before they’re ready to start working hard to help you. Create early opportunities to win together. Something as simple as sharing a relevant lead early on can have long-lasting benefits.

Measurements for Engagement Problem Diagnosis

Don’t wait for that third missed meeting to reach out to a partner. You can use data to identify problems early and with time course-correct. Once you have a few successful partnerships, you’ll start noticing patterns in the partners you work well with versus the ones that disappear after a few months. In addition to examining trends, you can use lost deal interviews to explore what went wrong and how you can improve.

For example, if you know that most partners are typically onboarded and enabled within three months, you can begin using that as a baseline for measuring your other partnerships. Similarly, if your top partners typically have five or more stakeholders involved, you’ll know to loop in more people from your partner’s team early on in the relationship.

Once you’ve defined what you’re looking for, use your Partner Relationship Management system to monitor existing partnerships. Build dashboards to measure important engagement metrics like the amount of time since the last meeting, number of deals referred, amount of revenue driven, and stakeholders engaged. When partners begin falling in the “danger zone,” it’s time to take action toward improving the relationship. 

Strategies to Renew Channel Partner Engagement 

When you notice a partnership growing stale, there are a few different strategies you can implement to renew enthusiasm. Depending on where your partner is in the cycle, recent previous engagements, and the friction you’ve encountered, use one of these strategies to reignite a partnership.

Share an Easy Win

Sometimes, a little momentum is all you need to start generating more success. If you feel like a partner is a great fit, but haven’t seen any deals come through from them yet, try reaching out with a warm lead. This is a great way to build some excitement and help your partner see the value of working together. A small win can lead to a snowball effect of success.

Get Creative with Incentives and Sales Contests

If you aren’t seeing the activity you want from a partner’s team, consider implementing new and creative SPIFFs. While not always an option, SPIFFs can be a fun strategy to get partners and their teams engaged. Get to know your partner’s team to find out what they care about so you can tailor incentives to their interests and be sure your benchmarks for rewards are coordinated with your goals.

Stay Top of Mind With Fresh Content

Your partners are busy people who most likely juggle multiple partnerships. Hold their attention with regular reminders of the revenue they could generate and exciting brand or product developments. For example, create a partner-focused newsletter that lauds noteworthy wins; highlight new battlecards from your portal’s homepage; or promote a new study proving your product to be the best in market. 

Stay Informed of Competitors’ Partner Strategies

If a competitor offers a significantly more generous commission structure than your own, expect your partners to drop like flies. Other factors that may draw partners towards a rival include a shorter onboarding period, better sales enablement, access to marketing development funds, etc. Your partners ultimately want to make the most amount of money with the least amount of work, so keep your offering competitive.  

Discuss Different Opportunities

Not all partnerships fit in a predetermined box. In fact, most don’t! If you’re struggling to get traction with a partner, explore opportunities to collaborate in different ways, either on new products, campaigns, or bundled services.

How a Partner Platform Can Help Eliminate Engagement Issues

Keep track of all your activity with partners in one database with a Partner Relationship Management (PRM) system. The right PRM will make collaborating with partners on sales and marketing activities seamless for your entire team.

PRMs help simplify incredibly complex relationships and track engagement across platforms, team members, prospects, and more. Automate key functions (like onboarding and deal registration), centralize your partner materials, and measure engagement and pipeline activity to shape future strategies. 

Allbound is the #1 PRM according to G2Crowd, having helped companies like CloudCheckr grow their partner engagement by 1,400%. Request a demo to learn how Allbound can help you keep your partners engaged, active, and profitable.

Ali Spiric