We all want our partner programs to be successful. We put a great deal of time, effort, and resources into building our programs. But how do we ensure success? Is there a secret formula? A magic wand we can wave? Unfortunately, not – though wouldn’t that be nice! However, there are 10 tried and true best practices that can set your program up for success if implemented and maintained with commitment.

1. Set goals and plan to ramp up

First up – what are you doing, why, what are your success metrics, where are you going?  What are you selling? If these goals aren’t defined, your program won’t be successful. Make sure your executives, sales teams, and partners know it takes time to get a new program up and running. The same is true if you are making changes to an existing program. Don’t expect instant results – a minimum 90-day ramp period is reasonable. Good things come to those who wait and put in the work.

2. Be clear about your expectations

Next, be clear about your expectations with partners. Make sure your partners have a solid understanding of what you’re asking them to do. Confusion kills momentum faster than a muddy racetrack. It’s hard to cross the finish line if you don’t know where it is. Give them concise goals and objectives so everyone is on the same page. Create annual business plans with strategic partners based on their goals, review them quarterly, and reward success.

3. Support your partners

Next, support your partners as they grow the business. Provide stellar sales, marketing, and technical support – it shows you’re invested in their success as much as your own. Help them help you achieve greatness! Partnerships are a two-way street, so make sure traffic is flowing smoothly in both directions. At AchieveUnite, we know trust is the foundation of all partnerships. Your partners will trust you because you deliver the support and tools they need to be successful.

4. Establish a partner listening initiative

Speaking of two-way streets: listen to your partners. Establish mechanisms and open various communication channels to keep a pulse on their satisfaction levels. Listen to their pain points and suggestions and act on them. This will strengthen your partnership over time. Quarterly roundtables and regular advisory council meetings are a great way to have a dialogue with your partners.

5. Work cross-functionally and keep an eye on your competitors

Partner programs aren’t successful in a vacuum. Work across functions in your company to stay relevant. Finance, legal, procurement, sales ops, channel and direct sales, corporate marketing, and more need to help and be informed. Product marketing will help with messaging and keep an eye on your competitors. Know what competitors are up to so you can stay ahead of the curve. Don’t get complacent just because you have an established program;  there are always new players gunning for your spot. Scope out the landscape regularly to protect your turf and make changes if necessary.

6. Measure and monitor

Of course, you’ll want to measure progress along the way. Review your goals and metrics every quarter. Assess what’s working well and what’s missing the mark. Adapt and adjust if needed. Don’t change things up too often but be open to making tweaks that will amplify success. Measure, monitor, repeat! Our programs tend to get bloated over time and need simplification. Sometimes they are missing elements that can increase sales, such as a rewards program.

7. Understand your partners

Make sure you match your offerings to the right partners. One size does not fit all when it comes to partnerships. Find profiles that align well with what you bring to the table. You may find that there are 3-4 different partner types suitable for your portfolio, and you may need to tweak your program for each type. SPs/VARs, LARs, Nationals, MSPs, GSPs, GSIs, and Marketplaces; which ones do you need to work with to be successful? Like peanut butter and chocolate, the right combo can unleash amazing results.

8. Remember your mutual customers

At the end of the day, the investments made in your partner program are allocated to reach existing and new customers, grow the pipeline, and increase sales. Keep your eye on the prize when figuring out how to best support your partnerships. Remember that your partners often own the customer relationship and bring your portfolio into the customer. Educate your direct and field sales and marketing teams on your program and the value of channel partners in customer relationships and closing deals.

9. Communication is essential

Communication, communication, communication. We can’t emphasize this one enough! Make sure your partners are armed with the information they need to crush it. Communicate directly through newsletters, over social channels, and via live events. Over-communicate if needed; you can never give too many updates. Make sure channel sales are included in all communications.

10. Automate as much as possible

Finally, automate what you can. No one likes manual repetitive tasks that take time away from more important matters. Implement portals and tools that centralize information and streamline processes. Stay current with new vendors and platforms that enter the marketplace and schedule demos for those that can help evolve your partner programs. Less time spent on administrative tasks means more time for strategic initiatives.

This practical roadmap of 10 best practices will pave the way for program prosperity. It may not be as exciting as waving a magic wand, but proven principles and processes can work wonders! All of us at AchieveUnite have deep experience building successful partner programs, leading partner roundtables and advisory boards, training sales and marketing teams, creating joint business plans, growing leaders, and helping to build trust. With commitment and teamwork, your next program is sure to be your greatest success yet. How can we help you with yours?