What is a PRM? The simple definition is that a partner relationship management (PRM) is a platform that automates the channel partner lifecycle. However, the reality is much more complex.
First-class PRM tools will enable partners to interact with prospects within the same platform in which they train, access materials, and submit MDF requests. In turn, the portal serves as the all-in-one solution for partners while enabling operators to build layered partner journeys, automate behavior-triggered partner communications, and gain valuable intel about the programs’ engagement levels and pipeline status.
To better answer the question of what is a PRM, this article dives into specific technology features and how they can play a role in your program’s success. Learn more about general best practices by reading The Ultimate Guide to Partner Relationship Management.
Improved Onboarding Through Organization and Automation
Your PRM is a resource available to new partners 24/7 to answer all questions and facilitate their learning. Significant onboarding benefits include:
Structured partner onboarding within the platform. Newcomers will be able to view training materials on their schedule without heavy involvement from your team. You can use the PRM to classify partners so the portal only serves selective access to materials that directly apply to beginners (rather than overwhelming them with the entirety of your library).
Automation of onboarding workflow using PRM software. Leverage automation to guide new partners through the many training and onboarding steps. PRM features that make this possible include:
- Behavior-triggered notifications to direct them through the early stages of the partner training within the PRM
- Multi-step learning tracks in which training naturally build on top of one another
- Quizzes which, if participants pass, will unlock new materials and capabilities within the PRM
Early-performance tracking. You can view an individual partner’s portal logins and content engagement to determine which partners put forth the effort and who are not fully committed. Similarly, you can view their quiz results so you can understand what concepts they may struggle to understand. Such insights can make one-on-one conversations particularly productive and help you further earn partners’ interest and trust.
Other Onboarding Tips:
Finesse the onboarding process with input from multiple teams. Onboarding is a crash course in the many nuances that make up your brand. For the best (and most accurate) learning experience, invite members of Direct Sales, Marketing, Product Development, and Operations to contribute to the partner training courses. Clearly delegate which teams are responsible for producing specific materials and hold them to deadlines; otherwise, partner-serving content may tumble down their lists of priorities.
Communicate a clear roadmap. At no point should your partners be left to muse, “what now?” The roadmap should make clear what milestones they should achieve by when. This should include the preferred timing for the completion of training, content interactions, sales activities, and registered deals.
Create a channel partner welcome kit complete with essential information and a tutorial on interacting with the portal. This not only reinforces the newcomers’ positive first impression but limits the number of one-off questions you would have to answer.
PRM Partner Enablement Activities
Your PRM doubles as a channel enablement software, ultimately guiding partners towards greater revenue. Key features include:
Playbooks to guide partners’ sales conversations. Channel sales reps are the face of your brand. Therefore, you must empower them with playbooks on how to handle certain sales situations. By providing multiple content sets focused around specific audiences or products, you equip partners to represent your brand with your messaging.
Prospect pages for easy, professional communication. Your partners aren’t the only ones who benefit from centralized communication. Your PRM’s sales prospect pages create a singular destination that houses all relevant resources and partner contact information (compared to a series of disjointed emails). What’s more, every time a partner registers a deal to create a new prospect page, they prompt your PRM to automatically suggest relevant playbooks.
Minimization of conflicts with concise deal registration processes. Real-time, precise deal registration software that integrates with your CRM is crucial for minimizing channel conflict. After all, your PRM can clarify who entered the prospect into the system first to eliminate all ambiguity. Click here for more ways to resolve channel conflicts.
Other Sales Enablement Tips:
Employ SPIFF campaigns to promote products or temporarily boost revenue. Who doesn’t love the thrill of competition? Give your partners added incentive to promote your services with a short-lived contest. For further inspiration, check out 7 Steps to Creating a SPIFF Program to Incentivize Channel Partners.
Update your playbooks regularly. The questions prospects asked your partners three years ago may have been supplanted with an entirely new set of concerns. Work with Direct Sales to fine-tune strategies that address the latest technology, world events, and industry shifts.
Consider giving your most promising partners their first few leads. While you won’t collect 100% of the profit, this one-off show of generosity can go a long way to cementing their program loyalty and enthusiasm.
Partner Marketing Capabilities Within Your PRM
Partners can play a crucial role in generating buzz for your brand and products, particularly amongst new audiences. Your PRM software includes channel marketing features that augment this opportunity while simultaneously putting in place guardrails to prevent misrepresentation.
Co-branding capabilities within the partner portal. Partners can add their logo to pre-approved materials in a way that presents a consistent, professional aesthetic. Plus, you can restrict the co-branding of premium materials to partner tiers (i.e., gold tier partners who have completed all learning tracks). Without a PRM tool, this process can be time-consuming and slow, as it requires your team to manually add the logo and send multiple emails back and forth for each individual request.
MDF automation and tracking. Market development funds (MDF) are the financial support you grant partners to promote your products better. But how do you know whether you’re spending your money wisely if you can’t tie marketing strategies to revenue? With a PRM tool like Allbound, you can easily analyze which marketing efforts led to improved deal registrations and which bore no noticeable impact. Additionally, automating MDF requests within the PRM expedites the process for all involved by eliminating paperwork and back-and-forth emails.
Content marketing management. Your PRM enables easy organization and distribution of content marketing materials. Promote new pieces on the dashboard homepage, tag specific pieces for relevant groups, and capabilities like the search bar and content pinning let partners find their favorite pieces time and time again.
Other Partner Marketing Tips:
Collaborate directly with select partners. Ideas include inviting them onto your company’s podcast (or vice versa), co-hosting an event, co-authoring a piece of content, or joining forces to conduct a survey.
Communicate appropriate KPIs to measure a campaign’s success. A co-branded infographic won’t nurture the same kind of interactions as a product demo video. Therefore, make sure you and the participating partner are on the same page about timelines, responsibilities, and measurable goals.
Integration with your existing tech stack. Allbound believes that your PRM platform should seamlessly work in conjunction with your CRM and existing tech stack. Our integration capabilities help bridge gaps between tools for a robust view into your overall sales channel.
Easy-to-Understand PRM Data to Inform Business Decisions
Built-in charts to visualize trends and assign meaning to data. What good is raw data if you can’t comprehend its significance? A PRM tool helps you visualize data for easier tracking of partner program health and influence of different marketing campaigns.
More importantly, partner program KPIs can reveal how your strategy progresses over time and potential weak spots in the partner journey. After all, there’s a long road between a partner onboarding and generating revenue, and failure to measure the many twists and turns will lead to a shallow understanding of the channel. Examples of important questions to ask yourself include:
- How many of my onboarding partners complete the training?
- How do different partner groups compare to one another regarding portal engagement and generating revenue?
- Which content—playbooks, content marketing, training lessons—is most effective in accomplishing its set goals?
- What content do partners click/pin the most? The least?
- How many registered deals end up converting? At what stage do prospects disengage?
- What is my program’s attrition rate?
- Which products do partners sell the most? The least?
A PRM’s channel sales insights feature should let you answer these queries (and more) for individuals, separate partner groups, and the ecosystem as a whole. Knowledge in hand, you can dock processes and content that fail to deliver, focus on opportunities for improvement, and double-down on proven strategies. What’s more, you can justify such decisions (and spending) to other teams with automatically generated charts.
Personalized PRM Experience for Different Groups
As new partners come aboard, distinctions between groups will become increasingly clear. Perhaps one sect will require more detailed training, or another will serve end users who don’t respond to your current playbooks. Such observations signal that it’s time to diversify your partner strategies.
So what role does your PRM play in this endeavor? Sophisticated PRMs like Allbound empower you to categorize new partners based on whatever classifications you want. Then, you choose which parts of the portal they can access and which materials they see. This means that PRM users will only see what directly relates rather than the full breadth of your library.
What Are Other Benefits of a PRM
The above article dove into the benefits of individual PRM features. However, there are other compelling advantages that are worth acknowledging.
Increased operational efficiency and organization. Not every member of your Channel Sales division will be partner-facing, instead handling behind-the-scenes decisions about program-wide processes, underlying technology, data analysis, and other Partner Operations responsibilities. Your PRM will prove pivotal in supporting their efforts, as well. Specialized features like Lead Distribution, the Commission Dashboard, and Channel Insights create templatized procedures centralized within a single source for easier management and reporting.
A first-rate PRM is a recruitment tool for partners. To join a channel program is a time investment, so prospective partners will want reassurances that it will be profitable. The utilization of a best-in-class PRM conveys your company’s willingness to support partners, on the whole. What’s more, it minimizes process barriers so your onboarding messaging takes center stage in their minds.
Overall greater efficiencies through strategic automation. A PRM tool frees up channel account managers to focus on big-picture strategies and building valuable relationships rather than sifting through co-branding requests, easy questions, and spreadsheet updates. This yields greater tactical gains and allows for scalable growth.
Adaptable solution for future growth. As your partner program grows at scale (which is the goal), you will quickly find that manual processes that worked for a 10-partner program won’t bring the same results for 100 partners. Alternatively, PRM solutions are designed for quick adaptation to new audiences, new verticals, etc.
Consistency amongst partners and internal teams. PRMs naturally systemize procedures, whether it be co-branding output, opportunity measurement, or content organization. This helps make your program near-immune to the hiccups of internal turnover and conflicting promotional messaging amongst partners.
Unification of your program to “connect the dots.” One software solution will house your onboarding, deal registrations, MDF spending, content distribution, and every other element of your partner program. This strategic consolidation streamlines tool costs, simplifies processes, and helps illustrate a complete picture when analyzing data.
A platform experience that meets the current standards. Your PRM provider should make regular updates to provide you and your partners with enhanced capabilities and adherence to the latest portal design best practices. Comparatively, in-house developers will have their attention divided between multiple projects, often letting the partner platform user experience grow outdated.
What is Not a PRM
Based on the full suite of capabilities a PRM offers to a partner program, you may think that it truly does anything and everything. This isn’t quite the case. Moreover, many software vendors who work closely with partner programs will falsely label their products as PRMs when it does not qualify. Keep in mind that the following are considered separate from PRMs:
- Account mapping software – This tool helps sales and marketing teams visualize the network relationships they hold with customers and prospects. This can help team members align on common goals, as well as identify under-served opportunities which new partners can target.
- Customer relationship management (CRM) – A common rookie mistake is to try to manage your partners using your CRM. This ultimately holds your program back because you’re utilizing a specific software in a way it’s not intended, depriving yourself of pivotal features.
- Marketing automation software – As touched upon above, through-partner marketing is a key part of a successful channel program. While a PRM should house MDF requests and promotional materials for real-time co-branding, it will be separate from your marketing automation.
All of the above can work in conjunction with your PRM to greatly benefit your partner program. Just recognize that it’s a case of “and” rather than “or.”
Bottom Line: What is PRM? An Opportunity to Diversify and Grow
An increasing number of tech-based companies invest in channel partners to sell their SaaS products. If you’re interested in joining their ranks to acceleratefor accelerating your existing program, see how a PRM tool can strengthen and automate elements of your channel strategy. To dive deeper into what defines a best-in-class PRM, read:
- Automate, Scale, Integrate – PRM System Criteria – Explore the specific criteria to seek when assessing PRM technology, all the while keeping in mind what will not only satisfy today’s needs, but also support future growth.
- Writing a Channel Partner Satisfaction Survey? Here Are What Questions to Ask – Your PRM (or lack thereof) may not be the only issue partners have with your program. Use this article to inspire your own satisfaction surveys in which you explore program participants’ needs regarding technology, communication, incentives, and more.
- Harness the Power of Through-Channel Marketing Automation – It’s hard to talk about partner programs and the technology that support them without discussing the buzz topic of through-channel marketing. Learn how your PRM can play a large role in automating certain elements and collecting valuable feedback.
- Perfect Your Partner Management & Sales Framework – The implementation of a PRM is the keystone to your partner program, but it certainly isn’t the building block at your disposal. Use this guide to double-check that you have all the necessary elements in place to help your channel sales thrive.
- Hootsuite’s Blueprint: How to Formalize Your Partner Program - November 28, 2023
- Economic adjustment toolkit – The key to building a resilient partnership strategy - November 26, 2023
- How to select the right partners for your program - November 8, 2023