Think about a partner you had that maybe started strong in your program, but whose engagement diminished over time.
What had appeared to be a promising partnership quickly vanished. What happened? Can you pinpoint where things took a turn for the worse?"
When partners' engagement declines, you might often find yourself asking, "How do I keep my partners engaged? And how do I keep this kind of disinterest from happening again?"
Well, buckle up folks! We are about to show you how to increase partner engagement (and prevent it from declining) in six easy steps.
- 1. What Does Partner Engagement Mean?
- 2. Creating a Partnership Engagement Strategy
- 2.1. Step 1: Recruit the Right Partners
- 2.1.1. Create Your Ideal Partner Persona First
- 2.1.2. Set Your Recruitment Goals
- 2.1.3. Be Transparent
- 2.2. Step 2: Create a Comprehensive Partner Onboarding Strategy
- 2.2.1. Make it Welcoming
- 2.2.2. Encourage Learning
- 2.2.3. Automate Processes
- 2.2.4. Encourage Feedback
- 2.3. Step 3: Nurture Partner Relationships
- 2.4. Step 4: Align Your Team With a Partner Engagement Model
- 2.4.1. The Partner Value Model TM
- 2.4.2. The Partner Building Framework
- 2.5. Step 5: Measure Partner Engagement
- 2.5.1. Portal Logins
- 2.5.2. Efficiency in Marketing
- 2.5.3. Partner Experience
- 2.6. Step 6: Use a Partner Platform
- 2.6.1. What is a Partner Platform?
- 2.6.2. Advantages of Using a Partner Platform
- 3. Conclusion
Table of contents
Partner engagement is the process of enlisting your partners to stay active in your program, with the goal of encouraging them to continue to add value to your program. To deepen this engagement process, mutual trust and knowledge of the business must be nurtured throughout the partnership.
Developing an engagement strategy, like the six steps we will present below, is essential in determining how engaged your partners are with your brand and how to improve or sustain this engagement.
This entails setting up internal processes that ensure your partners' active participation in your programs. Your sales, marketing, and partnership teams should all be aligned on your partner engagement strategy.
“If there is one piece of advice I usually always give to our partners, it is to recruit wisely and don’t fall for the temptation to simply recruit as many partners as possible.”
—James Taylor , Commercial Director at Kingpin Communications
There's no easy way to say it, if you don't recruit the right people for your program—people aligned with your values and objectives—you will waste your time. Period. And, funnily enough, so will the partner, who will quickly move their efforts to other programs better suited to their goals.
Determining which partners are the right fit and how to recruit them, on the other hand, can be difficult.
Here are a few points you should consider when it comes to your recruitment strategy:
Imagine a character who embodies all of your potential partner's best qualities. No, not a real person, but a fictionalized version of your ideal partner who is created based on market research and data analysis of the customer audience you want to target.
Creating your Ideal Partner Persona (IPP) is an important step because it helps align your operations towards valuable partners, and will help you save time and money in the long run.
The IPP is influenced by several factors, including:
Experience in the industry
Compatible sales cycle and style
Access to desired end-users
Setting recruitment goals entails identifying partners who define your partner-specific objectives, as well as how you plan to find and track the best partner candidates.
These objectives will help you in aligning your goals with those of your partner. If your partner has different expectations about what they'll get or what they'll be responsible for in the partnership, you'll need to clear up any misunderstandings and get everyone on the same page right away.
Transparency is key to successful partner relationships. Share information on what you can offer the partner and what your objectives are upfront. Be prepared to address any questions they may have.
We cannot stress this enough: potential partners should always have a clear idea of what they should anticipate and provide at every step of the partnership.
Overall, when it comes to finding the right partners, consider what makes a company a good fit for yours. Establish those standards, make them official, and work to enlist the help of those partners.
“Partner onboarding is a multistep process to initiate and integrate new partners into your company’s partner program. It sets the ground rules and the tone for your relationship. Any major hiccups in this process can compromise your future with a new partner and send them into the welcoming arms of a competitor." — Zift Solutions
One common blunder made during partnership onboarding is assuming that your partners will know what to do once they've signed up.
Creating a good onboarding process for your partners will help them get off to a good start, allow you to keep track of their progress, and ensure that they're ready to go for the gold!
Here are a few best practices to consider when developing a comprehensive partner onboarding strategy:
It's as easy as saying hello!
We all know how important it is to give your partners a proper welcome in any new relationship. This initial welcome and overview tell them everything they need to know about the onboarding process they are about to begin.
Train your partners to become true experts in your product so they can get the most out of the materials you provide them with and become top performers.
Establishing the expectation of learning early on in your program is essential. Because you're improving your products and positioning, encouraging and rewarding continuous learning ensures that your partners are kept up to date and can adjust their strategies to match yours.
Automation of your onboarding program provides resources to the partner while also making it simple for partners to access resources independently. You may also easily monitor and oversee your partners' actions and performance.
For example, Kiflo's Partner Relationship Management (PRM) platform allows you to automate and customize onboarding pipelines based on the type and tier of your partner. This empowers the partner to be autonomous, while also making sure they are getting the information they need to succeed.
Feedback is an essential technique for completing a comprehensive partner onboarding. The information acquired during the feedback process might be used to reshape your onboarding process.
Here are a few ways you can get feedback from your partners:
One-on-one meetings are one of the most reliable methods of obtaining feedback from your partners. Ask open-ended questions during one-on-one sessions to get a true sense of how your partners feel about your company.
Create simple, easy-to-use surveys to collect quantitative data from your partners on a regular basis.
Decide prior to onboarding what metrics will be tracked. This might speed of completion, pain point, content adoption, or even the number of logins. Though it's not direct feedback from the partner, this data will speak volumes about the effectiveness of your program.
Overall, feedback is critical for long-term success. To keep partners engaged, partner managers should schedule regular feedback opportunities for them.
We all know that recruiting more and more partners is a critical objective for any program. But, as appealing as it is to find new partners, we must not lose sight of our efforts to maintain and nurture our present ones.
Here are three ways to nurture long-term partners:
Communicate Regularly: Make it a habit of checking in and following up on a regular basis.
Provide Training: Use a continuous learning approach to demonstrate your commitment to your partners' understanding of your product or service. This will let them know that you are invested in their success.
Align Goals: You will get the most out of training your partners if you align training materials with your larger KPIs, as well as the goals of your partners. For example, if one of your KPIs is to expand brand reach, you should create comprehensive training on brand communication.
As we mentioned before, an engagement model is a set of guidelines your partnership team uses to nurture ongoing partnerships, similar to the six steps presented in this article.
This isn't the only model, though.
Engagement models differ based on your company's unique goals, as well as the intricacies of the partner program. At the end of the day, your teams should build a partner engagement model that works for you.
Here are a couple more examples of engagement models you might use or pull from:
Channel Dynamics uses a model called the Partner Value Model TM as another method of measuring partner engagement. This method is based on the future value and potential of a partner, rather than the current value.
The Partnering Initiative shares what they call The Partner Building Framework, which interestingly includes a step for "Moving On". As the name states, this step involves assessing why and when the partner is ready to move on from the program, but it also covers when it’s time for the partnership itself to move on from the current objectives and onto new, more aligned ones.
One of the most crucial parts of any organization is the ability to measure the success of your partner program.
Increased revenue is, without a question, the most obvious indicator of success, but you should also consider other aspects of partner engagement when tracking and analyzing your partner program.
Here are some example KPIs you can use:
Every partner relationship relies on communication, and you should see regular access to your portal as a sign that you have engaged partners. You can track and measure activity in the partner program portals to see how engaged your partners are.
The number of marketing campaigns your partners run to promote your business should be a good indicator of their enthusiasm.
Tracking your partner's marketing campaign effectiveness, or marketing ROI, allows you to allocate marketing resources to partners who execute effective campaigns that produce results.
The Total Partner Experience is measured by combining and expanding both partner profitability and partner engagement (TPE).
This assessment looks at a partner's overall experience and provides data on program initiatives that are successful in engaging and enabling partners, as well as insights into processes that are inefficient and should be streamlined.
“Treat your partners as you want them to treat your best customers. Support them with everything they need and equip them with the best tools to manage their sales and deals. They are sure to stay motivated and work harder.” —Kiflo
Partners tend to drop off due to a few common pain points in the partnering cycle, the majority of which include inconvenience, poor communication, and lack of automation.
Identifying these points of friction and working to make them more seamless for partners can help you retain more customers. This is where the partner portal comes into play.
A Partner Platform, also called a Partner Relationship Management (PRM) software, is a centralized hub that tracks every aspect of your partner program, such as leads, deals, onboarding, communications, tasks, commission, and partner data.
A PRM platform allows you to:
Organize your program with tiers
Coordinate training, onboarding, and certification processes
Build a knowledge base to provide instant answers
Collaborate with partners on a shared pipeline
Get full visibility over partner activity
Measure partner performance
Track commission and payouts
If your partner program is the vehicle driving you and your organization towards growth, partner engagement is the engine. Without the sustained participation, passion, and effort of long-term partners, the program will fail.
To build effective and long-lasting partnerships, it's important to create a partner engagement model your teams can use to make sure engagement becomes a central part of your operations. This model should include how and when you'll set your goals, envision your ideal partner, recruit them, bring them on board, and maintain their success.
A PRM platform, like Kiflo, supports partner engagement through streamlined onboarding, measurable goals and progress tracking, and so much more. This makes maintaining strong partner relationships easier and more time-efficient.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Why is partner engagement important?
Partner engagement encourages program participants to be proactive, enthusiastic, and persistent in their efforts. This entices them to keep participating in your program, and as a result, sales volume, market share, and brand reputation have a greater chance of significant growth.
What is a partner engagement model?
A partner engagement model is a strategy used internally by partnership teams to ensure that partners stay active in the program.
What's the difference between partner engagement and partner enablement?
Partner enablement is all about arming your partners with the knowledge, tools, and training they need to sell your product and grow your business. Partner engagement is concerned with keeping partners active in your program, whether by driving traffic or submitting leads and deals. The goal is to encourage partners to continue driving value over time.
Does partner onboarding impact partner engagement?
Yes, this is where partners receive the initial training that will serve them in their long-term operations. If this isn't clear, they'll struggle, and participation will most likely decline.
Do partner platforms increase partner engagement?
Yes, a partner platform can make working with your program more seamless for partners, as it allows you and them to keep track of operations in one centralized place.