Many vendors realize the true potential of channel partnerships and that leveraging the channel can help to reach new heights and scale up their businesses. A partner program, executed correctly, can help companies achieve this. However, channel programs may not work well when implemented without proper attention. After attending The Channel Meet Up in Boston, a recurring topic that dominated the discussions was “How can we optimize our channel program to achieve optimal outcomes?” Additionally, participants were eager to learn about the typical pitfalls they should steer clear of to ensure success. So, if your partner program is not up to par, or if you’re starting from scratch, here are the most prevalent pitfalls to avoid when developing your channel partner program.
6 Pitfalls to Avoid when Developing a Partner Program
1. Having the wrong partner types
It may sound obvious, but finding the right partner is crucial for your channel journey success. So, the first step is to clearly define your criteria for a good partner. Create a questionnaire with key questions that must be answered to qualify as a suitable partner for you. These questions could involve factors like revenue, customer base size, industry, and willingness to invest in sales and marketing efforts. It could be any combination of these factors.
Next, evaluate your current partner landscape. Determine how many partners you actually need. Do you have enough or perhaps too many? If you have too many, consider whether they are the right partners and if they add value to your business. Utilizing the same evaluation questionnaire can help you identify the partners that truly align with your channel strategy goals.
When executed correctly, a partner program is mutually beneficial. It can enable partners to achieve new levels of success and expand their business. While simultaneously growing your market share and revenue. Therefore, it’s about fostering partnerships that go beyond the product itself, focusing on the bigger picture and the potential for growth. When both sides are fully invested in the program’s success, they are equally motivated to ensure its achievements.
2. Insufficient training, content and support
Every vendor desires strong performance from their partners, but it is essential to provide them with consistent content and support. Are you equipping your partners with the necessary resources to effectively sell your products? Channel partners require appropriate training, certifications, sales tools, marketing campaigns, and communication channels. Vendors should offer a variety of content options, including campaign-specific “playbooks” that can be easily customized to suit the partner’s requirements. This could involve co-branding and incorporating partner-specific messaging into the materials.
PRM platforms come into play when faced with the challenges of time constraints and limited resources. These platforms assist in various tasks such as storing training materials, distributing sales tools and new marketing materials to empower partners. They also facilitate partner engagement through hosting incentives, deal registration for converting deals, and an outreach system for disseminating the latest news. Additionally, PRM platforms efficiently manage and report on the backend, providing a comprehensive solution. Typically, the partner portal serves as the initial access point, offering a centralized hub for all these functionalities.
3. Failing to prioritize communication
Effective communication forms the foundation of channel partner programs and plays a crucial role in their overall success. Instead of being predominantly reactive, communication should be proactive. It is essential to establish a robust support structure that simplifies the process for partners and provides clear information on the assistance they can expect and how they can reach out with any inquiries. By implementing an outreach schedule, channel account managers (CAMs) can maintain regular contact with partners. Regular partner newsletters should be created to keep them informed. Leveraging automation software can be advantageous, as it enables the dissemination of the latest news, pricing updates, and upcoming events to partners as soon as they access the portal.
4. Manual vs automation
One of the key pitfalls when developing a channel partner program is an overreliance on manual processes and systems that have a detrimental impact on partner engagement. The use of spreadsheets and emails leads to missed sales opportunities and incomplete deal registration, resulting in a lack of return on investment (ROI) for Market Development Funds (MDF). Therefore, it is imperative to consider expanding and enhancing your manual systems. You might already be contemplating or have already invested in Partner Relationship Management (PRM) platforms. To fully comprehend the advantages and disadvantages of this investment, it is crucial to thoroughly investigate PRM. A PRM platform, or channel program automation platform, will enable you to maintain a strong connection with your partners. Depending on the specific PRM modules you have invested in, it will assist you in assessing the effectiveness of your channel partner program and identifying necessary changes to achieve optimal outcomes.
5. Over complicating your program
Channel partners have their own businesses to manage, often working with multiple vendors. Therefore, if you want to attract channel partners, it is crucial to have a Partner Program that is uncomplicated and easy to comprehend. This should be your primary goal. Given the abundance of vendor options available, partners are more likely to choose those that offer a streamlined partnering process. Vendors need to strive for improvement by optimizing the partner experience.
‘Vendors must do better optimizing the experience for partners. It may be as simple as speeding up the MDF review and approval process, but it will make doing business with you easier’,
Kenneth Fox, CEO, Channel Mechanics
6. Not tracking data
Data holds immense importance in the realm of channel partner programs. While manual tracking and limited automation may be in place, accessing the right data is crucial for monitoring partner metrics aligned with your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). To ensure the success of your channel partner program, it is imperative to move away from manual tracking and cross-checking methods and instead invest in a platform that facilitates easy tracking and measurement of partner activity and performance.
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”
Channel partners, especially the prosperous ones, are often approached by multiple vendors. Therefore, as a vendor, you must provide compelling reasons for partners to choose to work with you. When executed correctly, a well-designed partner program can enable partners to reach new heights and expand their businesses. It focuses on fostering partnerships, envisioning the bigger picture, exploring potential opportunities, and emphasizing the additional value partners can offer alongside your products, supported by your team. To be successful, your partner program should easily demonstrate how it can contribute to their success.
Should you find yourself encountering any of these pitfalls while developing a channel partner program, Channel Mechanics is here to help you readjust and revitalize your programs. We strive to empower your partners by providing them with the necessary tools and motivation to thrive. Contact us for a demo and take the first step towards enhancing your partner program.