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The art of retention: How to keep partners for the long haul

It’s a no-brainer. Happy, engaged partners = more revenue. If you make their lives harder and referrals convoluted, they will deliver less. But a quick and seamless partner journey will show you exactly why partnerships can be so high value.
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Partner experience is everything when it comes to making a successful partner program.

It’s a no-brainer. Happy, engaged partners = more revenue. If you make their lives harder and referrals convoluted, they will deliver less. But a quick and seamless partner journey will show you exactly why partnerships can be so high value.

If you enable every partner that enters your program to do a great job, you’ll easily see why businesses who adopt an ecosystem model of trading see:

  • 65% increased efficiency and reduced cost
  • 56% improved new customer acquisition 
  • 47% accelerated product-to-market 

Let’s get you amongst those numbers, shall we?

The co-keep principle

First, it’s worth discussing a term we’ve coined here at Allbound specifically for this stage in the partner journey: co-keep. 

Co-keep focuses on retaining partners. It’s the stage in the partnership cycle after co-sell where we look to move a relationship past its basic transactional nature and into something more strategic and long-term.

Powerful partnerships are arguably more valuable than traditional vendor-customer relationships when implemented properly. 

There’s a world of difference between onboarding a partner and then things fizzling out, and seeing a partnership blossom into a multitude of opportunities. The potential for this to happen with every partner in your ecosystem is there, it’s just about nurturing your relationships in the right way.

As a result, growing your partner relationships should be high on your list of priorities. If you try to create an ecosystem without a compelling partner experience, your spider’s web will unravel quickly. 

The best partnerships are approached less like temporary flings and more like a marriage – you need to put in the effort to make the relationship last for the long haul. This is what co-keep is all about; bringing maximum effort in a way that is sustainable for every partner. 

This is what PRM technology has been helping businesses achieve for many years. You can read more about what’s next for PRM in the partner ecosystem here. 

So how do you use a PRM to create the ultimate partner experience?

Partner onboarding and enablement

First impressions matter, and it’s important to capitalize on the initial buzz everyone has to get things started. Motivation starts high and naturally starts to plateau, so make your life a lot easier by keeping it that way.

Trying to kickstart things again later will feel like trying to give CPR to one of those plastic manikins – you can’t breathe life into something that was never alive in the first place.

So, the first crucial stage in any partnership is teaching them about your tool, what it does, and how you’re unique. They need to know what’s what. Give them the grand tour, answer any questions, and impress them!

It’s also important that you demonstrate how they do crucial steps such as register deals, so that they feel empowered to do their job, but you can also show how easy it is to do. 

Partners should complete this stage of the partner journey feeling supported and fully understanding the next steps. 

Strategic partner segmentation

Every partner is not the same, and so they need to be approached differently. This is why using a PRM makes things so much easier: you can bucket partners based on type, significance, or other important factors. 

If you’re still living in a land of spreadsheets and emails, you’re going to be chasing your tail from the start. Having the right tech stack to support you at this stage of the partner journey will make or break your success (and sanity.)

Segmentation also makes your partners’ lives easier because it removes everything irrelevant from their eyesight. 

For example, the Allbound platform allows you to customize what your partner sees depending on the grouping you set up. 

This means that all the content they see and resources they can access is relevant to them, saving them from having to sift through loads of things they don’t need. This helps partners easily access materials, quickly learn what they need to, and be more likely to engage.

Working out how to segment your partners effectively is a step that shouldn’t be overlooked. 

Tailored partner training

You need to provide training on how to sell your solution. Otherwise, it’s never going to end well.

You know when your parents try and explain what you do for a living and you’re like “that’s not what I do, at all…” That’s how an uneducated partner will come across. You need to arm them with the right materials to be confident when explaining your solution. 

The quality and way in which you deliver your training matters. It needs to be succinct and easy to consume. Get rid of anything long-form. You know those huge manuals that come with a new piece of tech? The ones that immediately get ignored? Yeah, that’s my point. 

High-quality training = high quality partnerships. So don’t scrimp. Remember, partners have other partners and a whole to-do list to focus on, so won’t spend a lot of time learning your tool. 

Put in the effort to provide a partner experience that feels effortless.

Sharing marketing resources with partners

Make it easy for partners to download and co-brand marketing materials. This will go a long way in creating a positive partner experience. After all, they need resources to support their efforts in promoting you. 

Also, pay attention to the quality of the resources you share: they must be high-quality and useful. Think about the specific purpose for each asset you share, and make it easy for partners to understand what they should use and where. 

Partner communication

Another crucial element of a fantastic partner experience is the way you communicate. This can be split into two categories:

1. Regular communication

Your partners need to feel like you’re there when they need you. Setting up a well-thought-out partner journey with easy-to-access resources will immediately reduce the number of questions you have to answer. But, you still need to connect regularly through Slack or meetings with bigger partners to keep your relationship front-of-mind. 


2. Strategic communication

Then, you need to make time to have QBRs to dig into the progress of your partnership, what you want to achieve next together, and address any issues. Taking the time to focus on higher-level, strategic decisions will enable you to keep growing together and achieve the maximum value from your relationship.

Boost partner engagement with rewards and incentives

Who doesn’t like a reward for a job well done? Rewards and incentives are a great addition to any partnership as it helps to differentiate you from your competition – your competition being other partners and priorities. 

So let your partners know you’re ready for them to start bringing in deals by rewarding positive actions. Also, be sure to ask your partners for feedback on what they do and do not like so that you can make adjustments and provide them with the best kind of encouragement. 

Once you’ve got each of these important elements of a partner’s experience in place, your partners will be engaged, empowered, and bringing in deals. And if your partners are happy, your pipeline will be too.

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