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How to Recruit Partners and Keep Them Around

Blog Series: The Old Man and the Channel – with Olivier Choron, Managing Director EMEA, Impartner

Part 3: I Caught My Fish…Now What?

What’s Next?:

If you recruit a partner and stop there, you may face the same problem as Santiago! He netted his dream fish but didn’t plan ahead and lost it to the elements (and other fishes – Santiago’s competitors). For you, you will have spent a huge amount of effort and resources to recruit your partner but will lose it immediately to your competitors.

Let’s Define the Word ‘Recruiting’

When clients tell me they have recruited partners, I always ask the question ‘in what?’ and they look at me, puzzled. Most think about it and say ‘in my portal’, some say ‘in my partner program’… none say ‘in my proposition’.

Recruiting a partner should go beyond having them registering on your portal or signing your agreement. For them, this is typically a big step; it means they want to join your ‘world’ and work with you; your partner proposition makes sense to them and they agree that selling your products – alone – is not enough. They want more!

Remember, your partners may have done a lot of research and work before they contacted you and registered or signed that contract. They may have spoken to other partners; they may have read your Partner Program brochure; they may have spoken to your sales team and attended one of your events.

Essentially, they are committing to spending some time and effort with you. Are you ready?

This is Step 1; What’s Next?

You now have partners; they have access to some channel account managers, discounts, assets, funds, activities, incentives and, of course, your partner portal. What’s next?

You need to first onboard your partners fully into their respective programs and make sure they stay engaged. How do you do this?

You need to think about all the different partners, their strengths, weaknesses, and needs. This is what you have (or should have) done when you put together your Partner Program. You have (or should have) analyzed your current and desired partner landscape. You have (or should have) laid out a matrix of requirements and benefits for each type of partners you are working or want to work with.

Next, you need to automate these programs and the best way is via your Partner Relationship Management (PRM) system. Note, I didn’t say your ‘partner portal’. Portals are only the visible tip of the whole partner systems you need to put in place to, among others, ensure the relevant training, asset delivery, and co-marketing processes are delivered for the right partners at the right times.

With or Without PRM?

One way or another, for each new partner, you need to have a roadmap of activities that both parties (you and the new partner) need to walk through.  In one word, you need processes! Sadly, it gets complex very soon; not only do you have to consider your products and their diverse routes to market, but you also have to consider your local market characteristics, and the persona (at the partner level) you need to work with.

Does Excel work? Of course, it does… but it won’t for long! Keeping tab of who has done what, what needs to happen next and how this affects each partner user, is a tricky thing to do… PRM solutions have been engineered to solve these challenges. For any user, based on what they sell, what type of partners they are, where they are, you can create different journeys, with different outcomes.

The Desired End Results

Ultimately, you want your partners to be ‘fully onboarded’ a few weeks after they have joined your program. This means they should discover and learn about your program(s), tools, incentives, training and certification requirements (and benefits). Ideally, you will take a personalized/ persona-based approach and have arranged a sequence of emails, training sessions, in-portal notifications to fit the needs of each of your partners, based on their job roles and interests.

For best results, you may want to put in place a 30-, 60- and 90-days approach to coincide what you expect your partner to be able to do after 30, 60 and 90 days. Remember, there is a lot to learn and these partners don’t have much time!

Whatever approach you choose, this has to be personalized and it has to meet your users’ needs. These are very complex processes and will require many workflows, and emails. Do spend the time thinking about the whole ‘learning cycle’ your partners will have to go through, but do not make too many ‘assumptions’ when creating these processes.

Is This It?

Of course not! The same way you have onboarded your partners, you need to keep them informed and continue (forever) the process of making sure your partners stay engaged with you…  You will need to communicate regularly (and we suggest in a ‘personalized manner’) with your partners and create more action-to-result-based workflows that can last for the duration of their relationship with you.

Application Tactics:

  • Your Partner Proposition: This is what your partners are buying when they register on your partner portal. Make sure it’s relevant and enticing. They are not buying ‘portal access’!
  • Think About Your Audience: What do your large System Integrators or Service Providers want and need? What do your small resellers and dealers want and need? Think about them when you put your Partner Program together.
  • Recruiting Partners is Important: Of course, it is, but sending one email to say they now have access to the portal is not enough. Don’t assume your partners will visit your portal and do everything you want them to do!
  • Onboarding and Enabling Your Partners is Even More Critical: Instead, put together a 30-, 60-, 90-day communication, onboarding and enablement plan, so your partners have a great initial discovery journey with you.
  • Use Personas, With Care: It’s critical you put yourself in the shoes of the individuals who join your Partner Program, whether they are in Management, Sales, Marketing or Technical roles, but don’t assume too much. The more assumptions you make about that these personas’ want and need, the more likely you will fail. Instead, let people decide – themselves – what they want and what they need. Make your programs and activities easily searchable.
  • Implement a Smart and Contemporary PRM Solution: To support your partners through their journey with you and to help you manage the many processes and workflows you need to deliver on that journey, it’s crucial you can leverage the power of a state-of-the-art PRM solution, like Impartner PRM. Our research shows that using Impartner PRM, our customers have increased their channel revenue by 31%, sped their partner productivity ramp time by 37% and increased their partner engagement by 53% (source: A CFO’s Business Case for PRM).

About the author

Olivier Choron joined Impartner in June 2018 when Impartner acquired Tremolo Software. Olivier was the CEO and Founder at Tremolo, the provider of News on Demand and Social on Demand products, which have now been added to the unique Impartner PRM portfolio. He is currently the Managing Director for EMEA.

With 25+ years of channel marketing expertise, gained in Europe and in the US, at companies such as 3Com and Nortel Networks, Olivier is a well-recognized figure in the channel. Having also run a channel marketing services firm for 12 years in the UK, Olivier has advised many organizations on how to best structure their channel programs and how to best enable their partners, including Adobe, Vodafone, Trend Micro, Zyxel, and Samsung, among others.

Olivier holds a ‘Diplôme d’Ingénieur’ in computer science from the ENSI de Caen (France), and a master’s degree in electronic engineering from the University of Kent (UK).