For most B2B companies, selling through partners is a core of their business. In fact, a recent ServiceSource survey shows that over 68% of the North American technology companies’ revenue is generated through the channel. Even Google owes much of its early growth to partner relations with AOL and Yahoo. With these facts in mind, it’s not surprising that channel partnership development takes a decent share of corporate budgets. For example, technology companies invest 3-5% of their annual revenue to advance their partner relations, which for a $10 bn company means spending about $300-500 mln annually to boost their partners’ sales.
Using partner portals to encourage partners’ interest
One of the growing trends in establishing long-lasting channel partnerships is launching a partner portal for building a sustained two-way communication with partners and providing support to them. Vendors use these portals as a central repository containing a full range of marketing materials that help partners streamline marketing activities and enhance sales.
Vendors provide partners with many types of valuable marketing and sales assets:
- case studies
- fact sheets
- industry-specific kits, etc.
All these files are for partner access only, including partners’ employees. By default, assets come uncustomized and may appeal to any partner.
Why your partner portal may fail to attract partners’ attention
But despite the powerful capabilities that partner portals can provide, SAVO’s Maturity Model Insights study shows that only about 25% of channel partners regularly use their vendors’ partner portals.
Consequently, here comes a reasonable question: why do partner portals fail to attract partners’ attention, which results in such a low adoption level?
According to the Marek Group study, the primary reason for this underuse lies in the lack of time and expertise to use provided marketing materials to their full potential. Despite the large variety of marketing and sales assets available on partner portals, companies still have to spend time to make them look as they want, and in some cases they even have to engage their marketing specialists to uplift these collaterals.
As a result, partner portals are mainly used by Tier 1 partners having all necessary resources (money, qualified employees, time, etc.) to develop and execute their own marketing and sales programs based on vendor’s materials. Tier 2 and Tier 3 partners are not likely to benefit from the marketing content available on portals due to the lack of resources they can allocate for distribution purposes.
Partner portals may also fall flat due to a constant competition among vendors for their partners’ attention. Dealing with multiple vendors, channel partners prioritize products for sale depending on how many efforts they should make to close the deal. Altogether, these facts imply that to engage partners, vendors should provide an easy-to-use service requiring minimal efforts from partners’ side.
Using customer communications management solutions to spark interest in partner portal
Those vendors whose distribution highly depends on their partners’ sales activities should consider tailoring marketing assets to each partner. This way, vendors could offer a less labor- and time-consuming tool for their partners to work with marketing assets and therefore gain partners’ appreciation and increase loyalty. Vendors can tackle this challenge by using customer communications management (CCM) solutions in their daily practice. Some of them, such as Communications Center Enterprise (or OpenText StreamServe) allow tailoring and co-branding marketing assets specifically to partners’ needs, therefore creating more relevant and effective content for better channel sales. This can be achieved by integrating CCM with vendor’s backend systems that store the needed partner-related data.
CCM solutions can help vendors adapt their marketing assets in the following ways:
- Provide exclusively branded documents for each partner by taking partners’ details (logo, company name, contacts, etc.) from backend systems and placing them on the originals.
- Adjust marketing presentations to a particular end customer. Depending on a customer’s location or industry, CCM can automatically remove irrelevant slides from a large presentation.
- Prepare marketing files tailored to sales representatives’ contact data, e.g. name, phone, etc.
Besides, CCM solutions help vendors avoid the misuse or/and distortion of initial marketing materials that can happen through the following:
- Partners can add competing products as alternatives to the presentation
- Partners may replace a vendor’s logo for their own
- A vendor may have agreements with some partners to have their logo on a case study, and another partner may remove it, etc.
The advantages of implementing CCM solutions for both parties are as follows:
- Partners get access to a complete set of marketing materials helping them to sell better with no need for extra editing
- Vendors get assured that their modifiable marketing materials will not be occasionally distorted or intentionally misused.
How customer communications management solutions help to enhance partner loyalty
On the whole, enhancing a partner portal with the CCM functionality may become a significant rung in climbing up the partner loyalty ladder.
This is how it can advance vendor-partner relations:
- Partner loyalty will grow, as soon as partners see that a vendor guarantees better support, and the provided marketing materials are more convenient than those of other partnering vendors.
- This solution will save partners’ time and eliminate the need to customize marketing materials
- Once partners’ sales reps can get valuable materials from the partner portal, they will visit it more often, which opens them up for the vendor’s promotions within the loyalty program.
Increasing partner loyalty is one of the major and complex tasks for those vendors who rely on partners to distribute their products or services. By implementing CCM solutions, vendors can derive a benefit that is mutually profitable both for them and their partners. By simplifying partners’ efforts required for cooperation, a vendor can make another impactful step to bring this benefit to partners and encourage their loyalty.