AchieveUnite’s Discovery Series is a back-to-basics approach to strategy aimed at helping you learn fast, move quick, and get to market faster than you thought possible.

Companies like Adobe, Epson, and Autodesk have always been innovators when it comes to developing and nurturing their partners. However, their partner ecosystems have evolved significantly since the early days, causing channel and partner programs to change as well in order to keep up. Many of these changes are impacted by factors like these:

  • Technology innovation has accelerated – it’s easier to have an idea, develop an app and take it to market, then iterate rapidly based upon the customer response.
  • The internet, cloud, smart phones and social platforms now offer alternative channels of supply for customers.
  • Competition is fierce as new paradigms emerge such as digital transformation and artificial intelligence.

These are some of the challenges/opportunities partners face today. Gone are the days when vendors can rely on partners to ‘market make’ and partners are less willing to invest without a compelling reason. Now vendors must design and implement a Partner Program with careful consideration and investment. The ones who do this well move from a basic understanding of the partner lifecycle to a partner centric culture that understands the importance of recruitment and on boarding partners to drive business growth.

How vendors effectively manage recruitment and onboarding directly impacts the success of their program. Recruiting is all about getting partners to the table, and onboarding is all about mutually growing revenue. Vendors must take the time to recruit the right partners for their program, and then take the time to set their partners up for success.

Identify The Partners

A well-designed partner program will include multiple partner types to support a company’s strategy, these could include Resellers, MSP’s, Technology Alliance Partners etc. Each partner type is quite different with their own characteristics. Identify which partners to work with and compile a list of target accounts based upon criteria such as:

  • Alignment to the company strategy
  • Requirement to work with a distributor
  • Agreed characteristics
    • Size and market position
    • Vertical markets served
    • Existing customer relations
    • Complimentary product portfolio
    • Partnering commitment
    • Company strategy

Recruitment

After deciding both the partner type and partner profile, the next step is to work with the marketing team to develop a partner recruitment strategy and plan.

The marketing team will be able to create a focused recruitment campaign with appropriate messaging to the appropriate partner types across multiple channels. A comprehensive marketing plan that includes events, collateral, branding, social media, blogs, webinars and more is essential to stimulate interest. As the recruitment campaign generates leads, it is essential to respond to the partner leads and compare their business and objectives to the agreed partner profile. If there is alignment and partners sign up the next stage is to successfully onboard them.

Win the Partner’s Commitment

Onboarding a partner into the program is a very important series of steps. A full onboarding methodology should cover the period until a partner is fully proficient and successful within the program. This could be as long as 1 year or 18 months, depending on the product and program. However, the first 90 days of the process is the most critical, research from CompTIA – the voice of Information Technology – shows that if vendor’s fail to engage and onboard a partner in the first 90 days of a relationship, the likelihood of success with that partner is greatly diminished.

Onboarding is a process that builds upon itself over time. In the beginning the vendor will spend most of the effort in getting a partner enabled, but over time the effort should level out, and by the end of the onboarding process, the partner will be self-sufficient enough to handle most of the workload.

Developing Partner Success

Growing revenue with a partner is directly linked to the onboarding process and how fast a partner can be fully trained, enabled and begin selling. The good news is that the more effective the onboarding plan is, the faster a partner can contribute. So, moving through the phases completely and efficiently is the key to success. Here are a few pointers in developing an onboarding plan:

  • Document a plan for the team as well for partners to see. It is sometimes helpful to break the plan into manageable chunks of time; where in each bucket of time there are specific tasks to accomplish.
  • Lead with growth in mind, but always have the company goals aligned with the partner’s goals. Communicating and agreeing on expectations is a great way to reach and exceed individual expectations.
  • Have a conversation about money and goals and be very specific about it. Money is a driving factor in the vendor/partner relationship, so it is important to understand how both sides profit from working together.
  • Establish ownership and accountability at every step in the onboarding process. Make sure action items are clearly documented, reviewed, and agreed upon with ownership and due dates. It is important to “do what you say, and say what you do,” as you establish the framework of a trusted vendor/partner relationship.

Creating Partner Lifetime Value

Whether training an athlete to win a race or securing foundations upon which to build a house it’s the preparation that ensures the success and results. Recruiting and onboarding partners correctly will set the tone for the entire relationship. Taking the time to set things up for success will get the company to revenue faster. It will also help establish Partner Lifetime Value that develops collaboration and sustainable revenue stream for years to come.

Need help overhauling your partner program? It’s what we do. Let us know how we can help!

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