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The ultimate partner journey guide

Establishing a strong partner program is a journey that requires careful planning, active management, and ongoing evaluation. Empowering, engaging, and retaining partners enables businesses to maximize their networks' potential for growth and achieving strategic goals. Here's your guide to building a partner journey.
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Let’s talk about what makes a great partnership. It’s the perfect balance of complementary differences: crispy bacon and runny eggs; sweet chocolate and creamy peanut butter; sharp vinegar and… salty salt? (You try and describe what salt tastes like, I dare you.)

It’s important to not only choose the best combination of partners, but have a strong partner program that encourages them to stick around for the long-haul. How you achieve that is down to how well you execute your partner journey plan. 

This guide will take you through what makes a great partner program, the steps you need to include, and how to ensure your new partners are all happy bunnies. 

So, ready to get started, or are you just hungry?

Step 1: Partner selection

First, you need to decide what type of partners you want to sign up to your partner program. After all, without partners, we may as well all go home to our fridges now. 

You should align your company goals and metrics with the type of partner you’re looking to attract in order to reach your goals. From there, you can create criteria that each partner needs to meet in order to be accepted into your program. 

So, have a think about what you want to achieve from a partnership. 

For example, is there a feature set that would work really well with your platform, but that your engineering team doesn't have time to build? Reach out to a business who provides that. 

Your partnership objectives should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound – anything outside of this is probably wasting your time, and theirs. 

Also, you’ll want to make sure you partner with businesses who respect your ethics, values, and standards. Don’t get yourself tangled up with anyone dodgy. 

Step 2: Partner recruitment

The next step in your partner journey is to go from stalking them online to reaching out. 

We always say how much a partnership is like a relationship in terms of the amount and time and effort you should dedicate to it. More importantly, is how you need to continue with the same level of enthusiasm throughout – don’t just peak at the first date.

So, partner outreach is you proposing your first date. What do you need to do to increase your chances of them saying ‘yes’? For a more detailed guide, check out our Ultimate Guide To Signing Partners To Your Partner Program.

In a nutshell, consider what prospecting methods you’re using e.g LinkedIn INmail or cold emails, and whether that’s the best way to approach your potential partners. Also make sure you prioritize demonstrating what value you have to offer, personalize where possible, and always follow-up!

Step 3: Partner experience

Once partners have (hopefully) said yes, the next step is all about ensuring they have an A+ experience. This will not only represent your brand in the best light and encourage engagement, but it’ll give you the best chance of generating revenue.

Let’s be clear on one thing: this is the engagement stage, NOT the honeymoon period. So, don’t be getting any ideas of it being all sunsets and wine. 

This relationship is just one communication issue away from them flouncing out the door and calling the whole thing off – at least there won’t be a dog to argue over. 

At Allbound, we’ve labeled this key stage of the relationship cycle ‘co-keep.’ Co-keep focuses on retaining and nurturing relationships by providing high-quality partner experiences. 

We’ve built our PRM with this principle in mind, providing high partner engagement and tangible insights into relationship signals (such as partner activity, deal frequency, velocity and value, engagement indicators, and user behavior) that correlate to the most mutual value. This data can then be used to identify other ideal partners, and grow your partner ecosystem. 

But before you can bring more partners onboard, you need to impress your initial cohort. 

A lot of things go into this phase of the partner journey including:

1. Onboarding and enablement

Welcome your new partners with open arms and make sure they have all the tools and knowledge they need to kick things off. Anticipate what they’re going to need and ask for – be proactive, not reactive. 

2. Segmentation

Remember, your partners are a diverse bunch. Figure out what makes each of them tick, and give them the specific support they need. Segment your partners based on the type of partner they are and what they need to make things easier. 

3. Training 

Keep enthusiasm levels high by providing your partners with ongoing training. This not only helps them get better at selling your stuff, but it will bring them closer to your brand, which can only be a good thing. 

4. Marketing resources

Make sure your partners can easily get their hands on marketing materials to help them promote your products or services. If they’ve got to dig for stuff, it’s not going to happen.

5. Regular communication 

Stay in regular contact with your partners through calls, check-ins, automated comms, and mutual action plans. Don’t ghost them!

Step 4: Metrics to track in your partner program

What does a successful partner program look like? 

It depends who’s looking at it. In order to ascertain whether or not your partner program is on the right track, first take a look back at those initial goals you set out. 

Do these still fit what you’re trying to achieve, or have things shifted a little along the way? Make adjustments as necessary and ensure your north star is still shining strong. 

Next, use these key metrics to track and measure how programmatically you are doing as a Partner Manager:

  1. Portal logins
  2. Completion of training content
  3. Leads/revenue generated
  4. Engagement e.g do they attend regular meetings? 

These core metrics will allow you to see how engaged your partners are and will go a long way in supporting you as you support them. 

You can also use them to pinpoint individual partners that may need some additional attention. Someone that could potentially churn may be re-engaged if you’re able to identify what the issue is and reach out to them. 

Step 5: Evaluation and iteration

Once you have your partner program up and running, you’ll want to make changes. Partner programs are based on a number of factors, after all, so things such as business strategy can have an impact on your partner goals. 

As you learn and grow in your relationships, you’ll get a better idea of what has and has not been working. Take a look at what you can improve, what types of partner you’d like to attract more of, and which haven’t performed. 

The most successful partner programs are constantly adapting and iterating, so don’t think the first version is what things will look like forever. 

Once you’ve got your partner program established, your focus can switch to growing an ecosystem of partners that allows you to acquire, enable, engage, grow, and retain more partnerships.

Allbound is committed to closely collaborating with businesses to enable you to harness the full potential of your PRM. If you’d like to learn more about how to create a strong partner ecosystem, you can read about the crucial role of PRM in the ecosystem here. 

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