Partners want systems and tools. Make infrastructure a priority.
In this year’s State of Partnering study, we asked partners all about the elements affecting their experience with vendors. These elements sorted into six pillars, with partner infrastructure coming in third place. Partners were also asked to rank the importance of elements comprising infrastructure. The result: a virtual tie between simply ‘having a partner automation system’ and ‘having all the systems tied together with single sign-on (SSO).’ These are together at the top of the list because not only do partners expect automation solutions, they want them. These systems provide access to the tools, materials and people they need to be successful with your products.
Make life easier.
Invest in single sign-on (SSO) for partners so they only need to remember one ID and password. Partners carry an average of 20 product lines. That’s 20 portals to log in to. Quick and easy online access to tools, materials and people scores big points for partner experience. And importantly, each user should have a unique ID and password, not each partner company. It’s better for them and better for you – in security, reporting and support.
An open-door policy.
Infrastructure also includes communications, feedback and automated recommendations. Frequency of communications is important and having a feedback mechanism ranked high. Partners love telling vendors what’s wrong and if they can do that through systems, all the better. We suggest there be an easy feedback button for open-text submissions and regular mini surveys built into your PRM systems.
When it comes to automated recommendations, partners are not as keen. Even though they may not like the idea of feedback to them and how they can grow, we are seeing success with vendors implementing systems that make recommendations to partners. An example: for partners that look like you, we’ve seen if you do ‘x’ and ‘y’ your revenues will grow ‘z%’ over the next 12 months.
Vendor priorities diverge.
Sadly, the vendor respondents in our study spend very little of their channel budget on partner management systems. In fact, 40% of respondents spend less than 1%. However, our data shows that 80% of partner interactions are through PRM systems – only 20% is human interaction. When the partners need to interact with a person, it greatly affects their experience. But most of the time the partners prefer to interact with partner portals and systems. People is the primary pillar of partner experience, by a wide margin, but it seems to have disproportionate spending. With 80% of interactions through PRM systems, vendors should invest more of their channel budget in systems and tools.
PRM systems are primarily used to automate access to content (materials and messaging), register and manage leads, access support, manage partner enrollment and track training and certification. Surprisingly, not many of the vendor respondents are using automation tools for business planning, rebate tracking or co-marketing management. We see great efficiencies in partner enablement and collaboration by automating all the program elements in the chart above. It’s just a matter of timing and priorities.
From great tools comes great data.
We love data. Dashboards, the visualization of data to provide trends and insights, is significantly important to partner experience (ranked #3 in the infrastructure pillar). Across the board, the vendor respondents have invested more in dashboards for their own use, versus providing dashboards for a partner’s benefit. For example, 75% of the vendor respondents indicated they had a dashboard to measure partner performance, but only 29% of them made that dashboard available for partners to view. It is exciting to see about a third of the vendor respondents are creating dashboards to predict the future performance of their partner ecosystem.
But to get quality dashboards the data sources must be tied together. Almost 40% of the vendor respondents indicated they operated several systems that do not communicate to each other. About a third had invested in single sign-on and just over 10% passed data between the systems to be able to create correlations, dashboards and scorecards. The last 20% had a unified system for all partner-facing activities. Since the desire for simplicity that SSO offers is so important to partner experience, it’s disappointing to see how few vendors are tying their systems together.
Where else do partner and vendor priorities diverge? What will you be working on this year? Read our entire report on Partner Experience then tell us what you think.