How to Update Your Program for the Next Generation of Partner Leaders
We speak so much about the next generation of partner programs, but what about the next generation of leaders inside the partner organisations? You know who I’m talking about. (Whisper: millennials.) Who are they? What do they need from vendor partner programs? Are they a changing force to be considered alongside customer buying trends and the transformation of partner engagement?
The digital age (furthered by the pandemic) ushered in a new model where a customer defines their own buying journey. This journey is typically non-linear and heavily reliant on digital interactions. Since the internet allows a customer to find information about products, pricing, reviews, and expected costs themselves, the value channel partners provide has shifted. Instead of primarily offering product knowledge, partners are implementing, integrating and operating technology solutions. These shifts in the buyer journey have changed the characteristics of the channel and their activities with customers.
The misunderstood and often overlooked partner portal is (and always has been) the digital face of partner engagement. As decades have passed, technology platforms struggle to BE more and DO more to support partner growth These changes have made PRM (Partner Relationship Management) almost unrecognisable. The death of your parents’ PRM has given birth to a new digital experience to engage, empower and manage the ever-evolving partner ecosystem. Partner automation has become more impactful to vendors and partners, supporting the emergence of ecosystem orchestration.
For a next generation partner program, consider this first.
Limit the Ch-ch-ch Changes
At the risk of aging myself with a David Bowie reference, I understand you feel the need to change your partner program every year, allowing it to “grow up.” As a partner program professional, that’s your job, right? But before you designate new partner types, create new initiatives and/or alter partner incentives – examine why. Why are you changing the program? Is it to streamline your processes? To enhance the partner experience? To increase partner profitability? To make it easier to engage, empower and manage your partner ecosystem? What will make yours a next generation partner program?
As we continue to move into a digital age in which individuals are comfortable researching and buying online, a transition accelerated by the Coronavirus pandemic, the buying journey has become non-linear. A potential customer may read a review, ask a friend, then browse the web before ultimately purchasing online (without consulting any sales professionals or entering a store).
In December 2021, PartnerPath CEO Diane Krakora hosted our annual year-end webinar with Jay McBain, Principal Analyst - Channels, Partnerships & Ecosystems at Forrester. They broke down what vendors should keep an eye out for in 2022. To hear the full dialogue, including examples, explanations and what you should do to adapt, be sure to watch the webinar. Below are a few highlights on each trend.
How are the people who design, recommend, resell, integrate, support and manage technology solutions doing in the global pandemic? We conducted a survey of solution providers at the end of 2020 and asked how their business had been impacted by the pandemic with options of 'increased, decreased or stayed the same.' Their answers provided the basis for our recent report “10 Effects of the Global Pandemic on the Channel.” At a glance, see the effects we identified.
Partner Relationships Need a Personalized Touch, Even When You’re Not In-Person
In our recent channel chief virtual roundtable, we asked leading technology channel executives what was keeping them up at night. Surprisingly, it wasn’t partner sales, additional enablement, driving customer adoption or even the plethora of small solution providers teetering on the edge of a pandemic-fueled extinction. What they were most worried about is the damage social distancing has done to their ability to nurture relationships with their partners. Without a plane flight and dinner meeting with a partner, how do you make sure your relationship remains positive and prosperous?
Partnering is personal and the pandemic has hampered relationships in a myriad of ways. We can’t safely break bread inside our favorite bistro or shake hands to solidify our agreement to invest and grow together. But beyond physical touch, creating a personal relationship with partners means personalizing how you do business.
I attend a lot of events. I’m usually crisscrossing the globe between partner summits, partner advisory boards, sales kick-off meetings and industry conferences. I’m one of the weirdos that actually misses large gatherings. No, I don’t miss the conference chicken or sitting in a freezing cold dark hall. I miss the energy of a packed room, the chitchat with people sitting around you before and after the sessions and catching up with friends and colleagues. The many virtual events I’ve attended in the last six months have left me, and others, wanting – but not all for the same reasons.