I was recently asked to discuss “Partner Enablement” with the additional caveat of looking at “2020 and beyond”. Interesting challenge! I know this is critical for many organizations who work with a channel, whether these have tens of local partners or tens of thousands of partners, globally.
Bringing the message home
Like everyone else, and although I have been in the channel for 25+ years, I decided to go online and search for ‘partner enablement’. Sadly, I mistyped my search and it came back with results for ‘parent enablement’. How interesting! I have 3 teenage boys and, for anyone with children, my search results highlighted some powerful messages, most of which also completely relate to ‘partner enablement’.
To successfully enable your children (and partners), you need to:
I found my accidental search results so surprisingly insightful. Looking at Partner Enablement, now or in 2020 and beyond, we need to keep these principles in mind. Partners are simply people who all have different experiences, backgrounds, and expectations. If we don’t listen and try to speak the same language, if we try to push ‘our views’, if we don’t agree on joint objectives, if we don’t communicate and educate, we will only face resistance and fail in enabling them and engaging with them!
But you need to move this to the next level! Children have one set (or maybe two sets) of parents. Your partners have 10-20 suppliers they work with. You need to understand that and make sure you know your place – you are one of many your partners are engaging with…
So, what should we do today?
If you’ve been in the channel for as long as I have, you already know what is required. It’s a tick list, but start with the start!
When possible, write a joint business plan. When it’s not possible, ask for what they need and what they miss most. Why push some marketing training or campaigns if they don’t have staff or budget to support this? Why push for sales training on some products, which they are not interested in? WASTED!
Again, make sure you align these results with the plans you put together or the expectations you have for these partners. But it’s important you encourage engagement and not penalize them for low engagement (remember my ‘parental engagement’ introduction!). You are in this together; if a program doesn’t work for certain partners, it’s most likely that your program doesn’t answer their needs and is ill-suited to your and their purpose.
What’s for us in 2020 and beyond?
Let’s now look at what we need to do that is different for 2020 and beyond. Why should we do this? Simply put, the world is changing. Your partner audience is changing in terms of demographics and roles. Welcome to the era of Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). Welcome to the world of Managed Service Providers (MSPs). Let’s embrace Generation Z. Portals and tools are evolving – we can now automate processes we never thought could be done online.
We now can and need to shift to people-based marketing. Let individuals tell us what they want and let us deliver on what they each require. In 2020 and beyond, we will be able to center everything (education, communications, measurements) around individuals and make everything we do personal! Some of this technology is here today (again, have a look at News on Demand from Impartner) but this will expand. Training and enablement programs will be geared to meet the needs of your partner individuals.
To do so, we will need to leverage the advances in Machine Learning (ML) or Artificial Intelligence (AI). We will need to add Data Scientists to our channel organizations to make sense of the data we produce and collect. Channel Marketers will be hired less on the grounds of their ‘flair’ and more on their capability to understand, analyze, and deliver programs based upon the data presented to them.
position where we can truly collaborate together. Each campaign will be tailored to each partner.
I look forward to the days when my portal experience is as sleek and individual as my Google search engine and my Netflix portal. Partners want to be in control. As individuals, they use consumer-centric tools every day that is tailored to their needs. They search, they get, they save… but they are also served ‘sponsored’ content. In 2020 and beyond, they will be able to navigate through your portal, on their desktop or their phone, as they navigate through the internet today. They will find the product assets, deal registration pages, incentives they are looking for, whilst you will be able to – intelligently and systematically – serve the content you think – you know – they also need.
But to make this happen in 2020 and beyond…
… we will need to have more budget allocated to the channel. To become smarter, more intelligent, more partner-centric and more data-centric, we will need to add Data Scientists, Marketing Operations and other expert staff members. Data will need to be collected, integrated, cleansed, manipulated, and analyzed. PRM systems will need to be customized, workflows to be created, programs to be enabled. This can only happen with budgets.
To obtain these budgets, we will need to elevate our channel roles within our organizations. We will need to see Channel Chiefs or, as I call them, Chief Channel Officers appear and represent us at board-level.
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).