When we industry folks talk about the customer journey, you all know what we're talking about. It's a very popular topic. In fact, a quick google search returns 460,000,000 results including a definition from Forrester: "The customer journey spans a variety of touchpoints by which the customer moves from awareness to engagement and purchase. Successful brands focus on developing a seamless experience that ensures each touchpoint interconnects and contributes to the overall journey." But customers aren't your only customers. Partners who sell your products and services through the indirect channel are also your customers. They need to be approached with similar regard and on a similar journey.
Our data shows that, like a customer’s buying-decision, about 60% of a solution provider’s decision on what products to market, sell and support is completed before they engage in a vendor’s enrollment process.
Mimicking the customer journey, the partner journey is defined as the complete sum of experiences partners go through when interacting with a vendor. Vendors need to adopt a lifecycle approach to better engage the next generation of solution providers to create a good experience leading to ongoing engagement and success.
Since every one of the vendors we’ve talked with over the past year is looking to grow their partner base, it's critical to examine the partner journey and take action to recruit, engage, empower, motivate, manage and support a bevy of solution provider partners to grow sales. Think you can put up the ‘help wanted’ sign and good partners will flock to sell your solutions? Wrong.
It takes work.
Customers are increasingly demanding full-solutions to their business needs, not just point products or specific technologies. Partners are the folks who design, develop and deliver solutions for customers, created from a variety of vendor technologies. As the entity delivering these full solutions, partners are often accountable for the expected business outcome. The partner owns the relationship with the customer who in turn considers the channel partner a trusted advisor. Partners have the power in their dynamic with vendors because they own the customer relationship. So, vendors need to work hard to attract good partners. Partners are in the driver’s seat – deciding to add a new product or technology from an existing vendor relationship or to work with a new vendor to meet the technology needs of their customers. Engaging a solution provider partner is an ongoing journey – like the customer journey – to enroll them with your company, products and solutions.
The partner journey has five stages and loops back on itself as partners re-evaluate which vendors to engage. The partners* report their businesses are growing at an average of 11-15% year over year and they continually decide whether to grow with their current vendors or engage new ones. The solution provider respondents* also indicated they have five primary vendors and fifteen secondary vendors (on average). To remain or become one of the 20 focus vendors, you should adopt this lifecycle approach with your solution provider ecosystem.
The 5 Stages of the Partner Journey:
- Awareness – partner explores new products, technologies or vendors.
70% of partners learn about new technologies via vendor events.
- Consideration – Partner evaluates products, technologies and/or vendors to adopt.
On average, partners consider 2-3 vendors against each other.
- Decision – Partner selects the product, technology or vendor to move forward with.
Technical evaluation is the most importance element in their decision to bring on a new vendor.
- Experience – Partner engages in a relationship with the vendor.
People affect experience the most (infrastructure second).
- Growth – Success is achieved and partner continues to invest in the relationship (starting again at Awareness).
On average, partners drop 10% of their vendors each year.
Tips for your program:
Adopt a partner journey process
- Create fields in your partner database to track each partner at each stage in the journey.
- Align your communications and materials to the partner journey stages (not just the sales cycle stages).
- Measure your Partner Account Managers (PAMs) on partner success (growth with you) not just sales volume.
- In your Partner Advisory Council meetings, ask your partners about their barriers to growth with you. Why do they consider growing (or not) with you?
Looking for more in-depth coverage on the Partner Journey? Read our report, watch webinars or explore other content in our library. Plus, stay tuned for more blogs in this series marking the steps in the Partner Journey.
*In December of 2017, we surveyed 104 vendors and 220 solution providers on the people involved, priorities and expected outcomes of the partners’ journey.