The dialogue between supplier and partner when discussing their channel program can sometimes sound like a day-time soap opera: “What did you like most?” or “How can I make it better next time?” Unfortunately, what the partner “experiences” when working with their supplier is not pillow talk.
In fact, SiriusDecisions is seeing a greater emphasis by supplier brands on learning what the partner thinks and what’s necessary to get them to drive end customer opportunities for the supplier.
So why is partner experience figuring prominently in the coming months for many channel programs?
To answer that question, it’s important to read the tea leaves or at least make an informed guess as to what’s going on at the supplier level. First and foremost, through our inquiries with clients we are finding suppliers making renewed efforts to drive loyalty and engagement with partners, especially for suppliers who depend heavily on partners to get their products to market.
The partner has choices. Suppliers know they only have limited opportunities to gain their partners’ mindshare and commitment, especially when their aim is to have partners include their products within larger customer solution sets. This realization among suppliers is leading to an all out war for end-customer wallet share. The winners will be those suppliers that can best capture the attention of the partner to leverage their mutual relationship with the customer.
Regardless of industry, there are five essential capabilities or pillars, proven to have a profound impact on partner experience. These capabilities often require multiple functions, e.g. channel marketing, partner sales, operations and even the executive team gets involved.
ONE: Product and profitability.
The strength of the offering is the most important selection criterion when a company is deciding whether to partner with a supplier. Partners consider whether they can make money selling the offering, whether it is reliable and high performing, and how easy it is to sell and support.
TWO: People and alignment
Partner experience is impacted by several company functions, including
product, pricing, sales, marketing and IT. Therefore, partner experience must be a company-wide responsibility that should include an executive sponsor that can report to the board on the initiative and any progress.
THREE: Programs and tools
This category refers to the deliverables and activities that help a partner
become more successful, such as training, marketing resources, sales tools and access to technical support when they really need it.
FOUR: Processes and technology
The partner often interacts with their supplier via their portal or through applications like deal registration or partner marketing automation. Suppliers should look for ways to make it easy for partners to engage with these applications and not make usability a hurdle to their success. Remember, think process first then technology when asking a partner to use any sales or channel marketing platforms.
FIVE: Promotion and communications
The way in which a supplier communicates with its partners has tremendous impact on partner experience. Partners consider whether the messaging is compelling, accurate, timely and specific to their needs; whether information is easy to locate when needed; and whether the supplier communicates with them in their preferred ways.
With these five foundational elements, suppliers can begin to sharpen their focus as they try to improve their interactions with partners to drive a best-in-class partner experience.
Improving partner experience should be no private matter either. Partners need to know what’s in it for them, so if a supplier can get them to see they are investing in an initiative to drive excellence in the channel, then they should announce this from atop the highest mountains.
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