So, you’re ready to start your first channel partnerships program.
That’s great news. Now you’ll need to ensure that you’ve blocked off sufficient time to do it right. Developing a program for channel partners is not something that happens overnight. You need the right infrastructure in place to ensure you take good care of your partner relationships.
That said, setting up a partner program isn’t something that has to take an entire fiscal year. With the right technology and a clear understanding of what you’re trying to achieve, you can have a partner program up and running in less than two months.
Set up your channel partner program goals
Channel partner program goals are important, of course. But how do you set them? Easy. Take a look at your larger business goals and marketing goals. For example, one of your tentpole business goals may be to break into a new geographic market. If you’re based in Canada, perhaps your team wants to land more customers in the US. Your channel partner program can support this business goal, so a sensible goal might be: “Recruit 15 channel partnerships in the US market by the end of FY23.”
Take a look at your larger business goals and look for ways that your channel partner program can help support them. For instance, if you have a marketing department goal to increase brand awareness, then your partner program may set a goal like, “Launch co-marketing campaigns with six brands that have high visibility within an audience we’re trying to reach.”
Pick the right channel partnership program software and set it up
Once you have your channel partner program goals outlined, you’re going to need to pick your software. Running a channel partner program and managing channel partners takes time. It’s not a side-of-the-desk task you can assign to a member of the marketing team who already has a full-time job. At the same time, you may not be able to have a full team dedicated to partnerships — it may just be one full-time employee. And even if you do have more than one person working on your channel partner programs, there are elements of your program that are automated and self-serve.
For example, one factor that can make or break a channel partner program is the speed and accuracy of payments. Mess up payments to channel partners or take too long to pay them and you’ll jeopardize those relationships as well as the reputation of your program. With the right software, you can automate the calculation and disbursement of these payments.
Similarly, you’ll want to offer self-serve options for your partner program. Today’s customers (and that includes B2B customers and partners) expect digital, self-serve solutions. This means that your channel partners want to be able to log in and see information about their channel-partner relationship at a glance. This includes information like:
- Marketing messaging
- Product materials
- Product info, including specifications
- Educational videos and certifications
- Deals in the pipeline
- Revenue generated
Another reason it’s important to purchase technology for your channel partner program is to provide a single source of truth for all of your channel partner program metrics. Without a single source of truth, channel partner program professionals have to collect and aggregate metrics from spreadsheets, emails, and CRMs. This takes up time that could’ve been spent connecting with channel partners or fine-tuning program messaging.
It also automates your day-to-day channel partner program operations (think all of those administrative tasks that are important but take up valuable time). Automating allows you to focus on high-level, strategic concerns like one-on-one calls to manage your partner relationships.
You can also automate activities like sending out onboarding, engagement, and training emails or congratulating partners for reaching partner program milestones, such as hitting a specific amount of revenue.
Create a recruitment strategy for your channel partnerships program
So here’s the thing: a channel partner program is not a plug-and-play program. You can have all the people and technology in the world but it won’t bear fruit unless you have a strategy and a dedicated plan of action for your day-to-day work.
One of the areas of your channel partner program that will require a lot of energy is your recruitment. Getting partners to join your program can feel like an uphill battle, but it’s important to remember that today’s partners have more options than ever when it comes to working with vendors. You’ll need to develop a recruitment strategy that entices partners to come on board.
Key steps you should take in your channel partner program recruitment strategy should include:
- Identify what types of partners you want to target: A quick way to do this is to take stock. If you’ve already got an informal channel partner program going (companies that are already re-selling your product because it’s a good fit for their customer base), see what these companies have in common. You could even interview them to see why they enjoy working with you. Use this information to inform your recruitment strategy. If you don’t have existing informal partners, use your business goals and partner program goals as a starting point. Target the types of customers who could help you meet your objectives as a partner.
- Craft messaging that focuses on your ideal partner: It’s easy to get caught up in what your company does and what makes your company so great. Avoid this trap. Instead, identify your partner channel program’s unique value proposition and develop a recruitment marketing campaign around this. When you’re having one-on-one meetings, sending out emails, or creating digital marketing campaigns, your target audience will get a clear sense of what they would get out of joining your program. This might include great commissions and incentives or excellent training programs and certifications that their sales teams can easily access.
- Track performance: Once you decide on a recruitment strategy, track its performance. Which messages, channels, and tactics perform best? Run A/B tests. Try different options. Iterate.
Prepare onboarding materials for your channel partnership program
The partner onboarding process is a critical leg in a partner’s journey through your program.
Remember that just because a company signs on to your channel partner program, doesn’t mean they’re going to stick around. The first few experiences with your program will inform whether they take your program seriously and choose to commit to it.
Take the time to think through your onboarding process. Anticipate what issues your channel partners may face and the types of resources they might need to feel supported. Some of your onboarding materials may include:
- A welcome email with quick links and information on what to expect
- An onboarding page with videos they can watch on topics like setting up their account in your partner relationship management system
- An overview of how the partner program works and how they can access useful resources like product messaging or training courses
You might also like: What great partner onboarding looks like (with examples).
Build a landing page
You’ll need a dedicated spot on your website for companies that are interested in becoming part of your partner program. Your partner program landing page should include:
- A unique value proposition that speaks to what potential channel partners care about (commissions, incentives, training programs, etc.)
- Information about how to get started or how to contact your company’s partner program coordinator
- Links to testimonials or case studies from other partner relationships (if you already have some in progress)
Set up automated processes for your channel partnership program
Once you’ve got your partner program up and running, set up automated processes, so you can focus on high-touch, high-value activities like one-on-one meetings with your channel partners. Processes you should automate include:
- Calculating and disbursing payments such as commissions and incentives
- Sending out onboarding and engagement emails on a pre-defined schedule
- Sending out congratulatory messages when partners hit specific milestones
Launch your partner program
Altogether, launching a partner program can take anywhere from a month to a month and a half depending on the tool you choose and the resources at your disposal. PartnerStack offers an end-to-end solution for managing your channel partner relationships. You can track deals, calculate commissions, launch competitions, offer training courses, deliver marketing materials, and more all in one place. Check out this demo for a 5-minute breakdown of how PartnerStack can help you launch and power your channel partner program.